OCIA Blog – News for the Ohio Transportation Industry

ODOT Memorial Day Travel Advisory

Posted on May 25, 2017
in Public Messages | 0 comments

ODOT-The-Zephyr

Pay extra attention when driving through work zones and always BUCKLE UP!

That’s the message from the Ohio Department of Transportation and they are right on target! Memorial Day is nearly upon us, marking the unofficial start of the summer vacation season. That means higher traffic volume throughout Ohio and the busiest time of year for highway construction. ODOT’s Memorial Day Travel Advisory 2017 notes that Ohio typically sees a 14% increase in traffic during the Memorial Day weekend, making it the fourth highest traveled holiday of the year. This year AAA predicts that 1.4 million Ohioans will drive more than 50 miles from home during the holiday!

Because of the higher traffic volume, ODOT works to reduce the size of work zones as much as possible during the holiday weekend. Motorists are encouraged to drive with extra care and plan ahead by checking OHGO.com for work zone locations and live traffic conditions.

“We really need drivers to pay extra attention when passing through work zones. Even though we do what we can to make them as safe as possible, work zones can be dangerous places,” said Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray. “Last year, there were 6,041 work zone crashes resulting in 28 deaths. Drivers need to slow down and be alert, especially in work zones.”

ODOT’s Memorial Day Travel Advisory provides a detailed list of Ohio highway projects that could impact travel.

Additionally, more than 130 digital highway message boards will display “CLICK IT OR TICKET” and “BUCKLE UP BUCKEYES” over the Memorial Day holiday. Last year, of the 15 traffic deaths over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, 4 were not wearing a seat belt.

Buckle up, travel safely and enjoy the holiday!

 

 

ASCE Report Card rates nation’s roads as “Poor, At Risk”

Posted on May 4, 2017
in Infrastructure | 0 comments

ASCE 2017 Report CardThe 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, published by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), gives America’s roads a disappointing letter grade of “D”. The engineers at ASCE define “D” as infrastructure that is “Poor, At Risk”:

“The infrastructure is in poor to fair condition and mostly below standard, with many elements approaching the end of their service life. A large portion of the system exhibits significant deterioration. Condition and capacity are of serious concern with strong risk of failure.”

The statistics are astounding. When you include everything from multi-lane interstates to residential streets, more than 4 million miles of roads stretch across the United States. They form the backbone of America’s transportation system. Private motorists depend on our roadways for convenient access to work, school, shopping and travel. Companies in every industry rely on the highway system for reliable and timely delivery of everything from bulk commodities and machinery to thousands of items that line retail shelves.

In 2016 alone, U.S. roads carried people and goods more than 3 trillion miles. Additionally, Americans are driving more these days increasing total Vehicle Miles Traveled to record levels, second only to 2007.

But with more traffic on the roads, highway congestion throughout America is getting worse. Our highway capacity is far less than needed:

  • More than two out of every five miles of U.S. urban interstates are congested
  • All but five of the country’s largest metro areas experienced an increase in traffic congestion from 2013 to 2014
  • In 2014, Americans spent 6.9 billion hours delayed in traffic – 42 hours per driver
  • Time wasted in traffic delays consumed 3.1 billion gallons of fuel
  • The lost time and wasted fuel added up to $160 billion in 2014

A significant number of highways throughout the nation are also in poor condition:

  • 20% of the nation’s highways had poor pavement conditions in 2014
  • Urban roads are in much worse shape than rural due to consistently higher traffic volume
  • 32% of urban roads are in poor condition compared to 14% of rural roads
  • In 2014, driving on poor roads cost U.S. motorists $112 billion in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs

While the nation’s roads earned a “D” grade overall, ASCE’s Ohio Infrastructure Overview notes that Ohio faces infrastructure challenges of its own:

  • Ohio has 122,926 miles of public roads with 17% in poor condition
  • Driving on roads in need of repair costs each driver $475 per year

Ohioans can expect more state-specific data in the future. The Ohio ASCE Council of Local Sections will soon be updating the Ohio Infrastructure Report Card with release planned for late 2018. The most recent Ohio Report Card, which was originally published by ASCE in 2009, gave Ohio roads a grade of “D”. We look forward to seeing what our letter grades will be this time around!

ASCE Infrastructure Report Card a Call to Action

Posted on Apr 13, 2017
in Infrastructure, Research & Data | 0 comments

SurfaceTransportation_Web-2 (1)In early March, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) unveiled their 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. Television news programs, newspapers and trade magazines covered the announcement for a few days and provided plenty of highlights. Within a week or so, the coverage tapered off and, as so often happens, the story receded in the public consciousness. It should not. ASCE has given us a call to action.

The ASCE  Infrastructure Report Card is updated every four years and assigns simple A to F letter grades that provide a revealing look at the progress – or lack of progress – in sustaining America’s infrastructure. The Report Card is comprehensive, evaluating roads and bridges as well as transit, rail, dams, levees, inland ports, aviation and other major infrastructure categories. Additionally, ASCE provides an overview and comparison of the same infrastructure categories for individual states.

In the weeks ahead, OCIA will drill deeper into the 2017 Report Card, taking a closer look at ASCE’s assessment of roads and bridges throughout America and here in Ohio. ASCE’s Surface Transportation Infrastructure Infographic, is a good place to start. Based on data from the Report Card, the Infographic demonstrates how road conditions and a lack of adequate highway funding affect all of us as motorists and users of public transportation. It also offers specific solutions for improvement. Here are the highlights:

  • Letter grades for America’s surface transportation infrastructure are: Bridges C+, Roads D, and Transit D-
  • 56,000 of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient and 188 million trips are taken on them annually
  • 2 out of 5 miles of the nation’s Interstates are congested, resulting in 6.9 billion hours delayed in traffic or 42 hours per driver
  • 21% of the nation’s highways are in poor condition costing motorists $121 billion per year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs

The takeaway point: Investment in surface transportation is not keeping up with America’s needs. Despite estimated funding $941 billion, total needs exceed $2 trillion resulting in a $1.1 trillion investment gap.

ASCE proposes the following solutions to improve conditions and ultimately raise the grades:

  • Fix the Federal Highway Trust Fund by raising the federal motor fuels tax, and explore alternative, long-term funding mechanisms.
  • Increase investment at all levels of government to reduce the backlog of infrastructure rehabilitation needs.
  • Use asset management best practices to prioritize projects and improve the condition, security and safety of assets while minimizing costs over its entire life span.

The ASCE recommendations are comprehensive, pragmatic and bold. They have to be. The deterioration of America’s infrastructure didn’t happen overnight but progressed gradually over many years. Reversing the situation will require major initiatives operating in unison: increasing revenue, investing in infrastructure at federal, state and local levels, and managing the investment wisely. America needs a call to action. The ASCE Infrastructure Report Card provides one that is loud and clear.

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ODOT invests $2.3 billion in Ohio roads and bridges

Posted on Apr 7, 2017
in Construction, Infrastructure | 0 comments

2017 will be a near-record construction season for Ohio – for the second year in a row! The Ohio Department of Transportation will invest $2.3 billion in roads and bridges across the state, nearly surpassing the $2.4 billion investments made in 2014 and 2015.

The construction season will include 1,098 projects with 26 considered Major Projects valued at more than $10 million each. Throughout the year, construction workers will pave 6,945 miles of roadway and repair or replace 1,281 bridges.

In keeping with ODOT’s plan for “Taking Care of What We Have”, 93% of the year’s construction investment is dedicated to preserving the existing transportation system while 7% is allocated toward enhancing capacity.

ODOT is also focused squarely on safety with 191 projects planned to make Ohio roadways safer. Safety is always a priority and becomes even more important as traffic deaths trend upward in the state.

ODOT’s effort helps Ohio continue to strive for excellence in its transportation infrastructure. A safe, well-maintained and uncongested system of highways and bridges is something that every resident and visitor traveling through Ohio should be able to count on.

Read the full text of ODOT’s news release, ODOT kicks off another near-record year of construction”.

Ohio legislature passes $7.8 billion transportation bill

Posted on Mar 31, 2017
in Infrastructure | 0 comments

Y-Bridge, Zanesville, OH

Y-Bridge, Zanesville, OH

The Ohio House and Senate passed a $7.8 billion transportation bill this week after lawmakers removed $48 million earmarked for local infrastructure projects and $30 million for public transit. The two-year transportation budget will now go to Gov. John Kasich’s office for his signature.

The transportation budget is separate from the state’s main operating budget and provides funding for ODOT, the Department of Public Safety, the Public Works Commission and the Development Services Agency. The new transportation budget bill includes several fee increases and modifications as well as a pilot program to test the effect of variable speed limits on traffic congestion.

Transportation budget highlights

  • Allows counties to charge an additional $5 vehicle registration fee to help fund local road and bridge projects
  • Allows Deputy Registrars to increase their service fees from the current $3.25 to as much as $5.25
  • Re-authorizes the Ohio Bridge Partnership Program which provides resources for county bridge projects
  • Reduces the registration fee for commercial vehicles from $30 to $15 in Clinton, Franklin, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery, and Stark counties to encourage more trucks to register in Ohio
  • Authorizes variable speed limits on I-90 in Cleveland, I-670 in Columbus, and I-75 in Cincinnati to cope with severe weather conditions or high traffic periods

Transportation bill does not provide long-term highway funding solutions

All of these measures will help increase Ohio’s transportation revenue. They may also help ease traffic congestion and utilize existing highways more efficiently. However, they still do not address the biggest highway funding issue. The new transportation bill does not offer long-term solutions to replace shrinking motor fuel tax revenue.

The state gas tax has stood at 28 cents-per-gallon for more than ten years. But with fuel efficiency increasing and more cars powered by electricity or natural gas, the annual revenue generated by the gas tax has declined. Additionally, because of inflation, each dollar of gas tax revenue buys much less today than 20 or 30 years ago. The result is inadequate long-term funding for Ohio’s infrastructure.

Meeting local infrastructure needs

The original Senate version of the transportation bill allocated an additional $48 million from existing gas tax revenue to counties and municipalities for local road and bridge projects. But according to the Ohio Department of Transportation, using the money for that purpose could have a negative effect on the state’s ability to leverage federal dollars. As part of the House-Senate compromise, the additional $48 million for local infrastructure was removed from the final bill.

Despite that legislative compromise, the budget negotiations clearly recognized the revenue needs of Ohio’s local communities. According to a Cleveland.com article, Senate President Larry Obhof said lawmakers could find other opportunities to increase funding for local transportation projects as well as public transit. And the Columbus Dispatch noted that Obhof has asked the Senate Ways and Means Committee to start hearings on alternatives to the gas tax for raising revenues to fix roads and bridges. This is an important step toward Ohio’s future. Finding additional or alternative sources of transportation funding is critical to ensuring the long-term health of our infrastructure. And right now is the perfect time to begin the conversation!

A Blueprint to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure

Posted on Feb 9, 2017
in Infrastructure | 0 comments

ASCE

ASCE

On January 24, 2017, U.S. Senate Democrats released a comprehensive proposal titled A Blueprint to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure.  Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) helped draft the proposal which would make a historic $1 trillion federal investment to modernize our crumbling infrastructure and create more than 15 million jobs that our economy desperately needs.”

Although national in scope, the Blueprint to Rebuild proposal has great significance for Ohio as well.  Our state has one of the nation’s largest interstate systems and a major public transit network that would benefit from nationwide investment in infrastructure.

  • Ohio has the nation’s fourth largest interstate system with 6,700 lane miles.
  • Ohio’s public transportation agencies serve more than 300,000 passengers every weekday.
  • Nearly a quarter of Ohio’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
  • An estimated 109,000 Ohioans work in highway construction in the state.
  • An estimated $14 billion will need to be spent to keep Ohio’s wastewater systems up to date over the next 20 years.

In a 1/24 news release, Senator Brown shared specifics from the national Blueprint to Rebuild and highlighted several priorities for Ohio that could be addressed through the new proposal. He addressed the subject further in the 2/1 edition of the Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune.  Here are the main points:

Buy America

The plan would apply Buy America rules to all taxpayer-funded public works and infrastructure projects to ensure that American tax dollars support American materials and jobs. For example, several companies such as ArcelorMittal, AK Steel and Nucor make steel in Ohio that can build and re-build bridges throughout the state.

Fixing Ohio Roads and Bridges

The plan calls for $210 billion for road and bridge repairs and $200 billion for a Vital Infrastructure Program (VIP), which would direct money toward projects of critical national significance. While high-profile projects such as the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati come immediately to mind, there are also thousands of road miles and hundreds of bridges throughout rural Ohio that need to be rebuilt or repaved.

Updating Outdated Sewer Systems

The plan calls for $110 billion to modernize outdated water and sewer systems. Dozens of Ohio communities struggle to repair outdated sewer systems that contaminate our rivers, lakes and drinking water. A recent report to Congress noted that Ohio needs at least a $14 billion investment in its clean water systems over the next 20 years.

Improving Public Transportation

The plan calls for $130 billion to replace and expand rail and bus systems. Sixty percent of Ohio’s buses will need to be replaced over the next 10 years at a cost of $750 million. And Cleveland’s rail system alone would require $400 million to replace its fleet of rail cars and repair its tracks.

Eliminating Blight & Lead Hazards

The plan includes $100 billion to address affordable housing challenges, eliminate blighted properties that bring down local property values, and remediate lead hazards that put children at risk of lead poisoning.

Rebuilding America’s Schools

The plan includes $75 billion to help modernize America’s schools without burdening local taxpayers.

The infrastructure challenges facing the nation and our own state of Ohio are immense but not insurmountable. The Blueprint to Rebuild America’s Infrastructure will do much to start a national conversation. Ultimately, progress will result from a true bipartisan effort in Congress, collaboration between Congress and the President, and a disciplined approach to infrastructure investment.

A Sensible Way to improve Ohio Highway Funding

Posted on Nov 16, 2016
in Infrastructure, Research & Data | 0 comments

The future condition of Ohio’s infrastructure is important business. The subject should concern every citizen who relies on our roads and bridges for daily commuting, shopping and recreation. Ultimately, the goal is to have a sustainable method of highway funding that Ohio can count on for the long term. But whether the best solution involves a single funding method or a combination of different mechanisms, now is the time to determine how Ohio will pay its way for a first rate transportation system that will meet today’s needs – and tomorrow’s.

Important goals for Ohio Highway Funding

AnnualDistributionofmotorfuelTaxWhen considering ways to increase Ohio’s transportation funding, several important goals come to mind. A viable funding solution will:

  • Recognize the capital needs of local communities
  • Generate enough revenue to seriously address funding shortfalls
  • Cause no “pain at the pump”
  • Provide highway funding that Ohioans can count on for the long term

Consider this scenario: A $0.05 annual increase in the Ohio Motor Fuel Tax for 3 years that would be distributed to provide extra funding to local communities on the front end.

TotalNewRevenue3yearsA 15-cent motor fuel tax increase phased in as described would generate approximately $2 billion over the first 3 years and $960 million annually in subsequent years. The 15¢ increase would cost the average vehicle owner approximately $112 per year – only about $2 per week!

 

With $5.6 billion in ODOT Major Projects currently unfunded and extensive capital needs for local projects throughout the state, $2 billion of additional revenue in the short term would provide a welcome boost. And just as important, an extra $960 million per year would help create a sustainable method of funding Ohio’s roads and bridges well into the 21st century.

Learn More About It!

To learn more about highway funding in Ohio and how transportation revenues are used, spend a few minutes with Ohio Highway Funding – Paying Our Way. Time well spent for sure!

 

Ohio Transportation Funding – A Look Ahead

Posted on Oct 21, 2016
in Infrastructure, Research & Data | 0 comments

PennyBlogAny discussion about the future of Ohio transportation funding must include a word about the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015. The FAST Act is a five-year, $305 billion measure that provides $286 billion for the nation’s federal highway and transportation programs. Under the FAST Act, Ohio will receive $8.77 billion over the next five years to invest in highway improvement. Unfortunately, the FAST Act fails to address the Highway Trust Fund’s permanent structural revenue deficit. As a result, the stability provided by the FAST Act will be short-lived. Without remedial action by Congress, another revenue shortfall will impact Ohio’s construction program as early as 2019.

Revenue growth will be driven at the state level

With no provision for long term transportation funding at the federal level, it is clear that any significant revenue growth for Ohio highway construction will be driven at the state level. Now is the time to consider some options.

Ohio Motor Fuel Tax – still the best single option for transportation funding

GasPumpBlogAt the state level, the Ohio motor fuel tax has stood at $0.28 for more than a decade. And while the funding it provides has remained flat, construction and maintenance costs have increased from year to year. In fact, things that cost $1.00 in 2006 cost $1.56 today and ODOT projects 3-4% inflation per year in the future. However, with sensible adjustments for inflation, the state gas tax remains the strongest method of increasing transportation revenue in Ohio.

  • Based on 2015 gas tax revenue of $1.88 billion, each penny of gas tax generates approximately $64 million. A reasonable gas tax increase phased in gradually over a few years, would ultimately generate hundreds of millions in annual revenue.
  • The motor fuel tax funding mechanism is already in place. By increasing the tax rate and indexing it for inflation, the motor fuel tax will remain viable for the long term.
  • The gas tax is an inherently fair user fee. Those who use the roads pay for better and safer roads.
  • An increase in motor fuel tax causes no “Pain at the Pump”. Based on a vehicle that travels 15,000 miles per year and gets 20 miles per gallon, a $0.01 per gallon increase would cost the vehicle owner an additional $7.50 per year.

What about other methods of transportation funding?

Supplemental fee mechanisms are also needed to ensure that owners of hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles pay their fair share for highway use as well. This becomes more important each year as the penetration of hybrid and electric autos increases. And as conventional automobiles continue to become more fuel efficient, additional revenue streams will be needed to supplement the motor fuel tax in the future. Methods ranging from to user fees based on Vehicle Miles Traveled to vehicle registration fees and other local funding options are all worthy of discussion.

With the FAST Act providing some revenue stability for the next few years, now is the time to discuss the future of Ohio transportation funding. Now is the time to plan! To learn more about current conditions, funding choices and how other states are meeting the transportation revenue challenge, check out Ohio Highway Funding – Paying Our Way.

Ohio Highway Funding Sources

Posted on Oct 7, 2016
in Infrastructure, Research & Data | 0 comments

Many Ohioans would like to know more about the revenue sources that fund our roads and bridges. Most people understand that a gas tax is included in the price per gallon that we pay at the pump. But how the entire highway revenue puzzle fits together is less clear for many. Let’s take a look.

OCA-All RevenueOhio has three primary sources for transportation funding: state highway revenue, federal highway revenue and bond revenue. State and federal highway revenues are the two largest components by far, providing 42% and 44% respectively of Ohio’s $3.017 billion total revenue for fiscal year 2016. Both are generated primarily from motor fuel taxes, commonly referred to as state and federal gas taxes. Additionally, bond revenues provide 9% and a combination of other state, federal and local government sources make up the remaining 5%.

The FAST Act

At the federal revenue level, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) federal highway program apportionment for Ohio will range from approximately $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion annually from fiscal year 2016 through fiscal year 2021. While the FAST Act provides some short-term stability, it does not include a plan for sustainable long-term highway funding. Rather, it supplements the $0.184 per gallon federal motor fuel tax, which has been in place since 1993, with a one-time transfer from the General Fund.

The Ohio Motor Fuel Tax

OCA-Gas Pump 2At the state level, the Ohio gas tax will generate $1.163 billion for 2016. It provides more than 90% of the state highway revenue that ODOT receives for maintenance and improvement of Ohio’s surface transportation system.

Federal and State motor fuel tax revenues are further allocated between the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Local communities. Vehicle and Truck Registrations and Title Fees also make up a substantial portion of local revenues providing $494 million in fiscal year 2015.

Learn More About It!

To learn more about highway funding in Ohio and how transportation revenues are used, spend a few minutes with Ohio Highway Funding – Paying Our Way. Time well spent for sure!

Ohio Roads & Bridges – Current Conditions

Posted on Sep 30, 2016
in Infrastructure, Research & Data | 0 comments

Ohio Bridge copyOhio is home to the 2nd largest inventory of bridges, 3rd largest commercial freight payload and the 4th largest interstate highway system in the nation. With nearly 122,000 road miles, more than 43,000 bridges, and Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) exceeding 112 billion miles annually, Ohio has a huge transportation infrastructure subject to continuous wear and tear. The impact on road and bridge conditions – and safety – is immense.

1,110 Traffic Fatalities in Ohio in 2015

Ohio RoadsA total of 5,246 people lost their lives as a result of motor vehicle crashes in Ohio from 2011 through 2015, an average of 1,049 fatalities per year. In 2013, the fatality rate on Ohio’s non-Interstate rural roads was more than three times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads and highways in the state. Industry estimates suggest that roadway features are a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes. Appropriate improvements can reduce crashes and highway fatalities while improving traffic flow and helping to relieve congestion.

Traffic Congestion costs time and money

Traffic CongestionTraffic congestion causes significant delays in Ohio, especially in the larger urban areas, affecting both commuters and commerce. Congestion also adds significant costs to consumers, transportation companies, manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers and can reduce the attractiveness of a location for companies considering expansion or a new facility.

The current condition of Ohio’s massive transportation infrastructure clearly points to the need for more highway funding. Additional revenues will help Ohio rehabilitate or replace aging roads and bridges, help reduce vehicle crashes and highway fatalities, and provide for the system expansion needed to relieve traffic congestion.

Once again, the question is: How can we make these necessary improvements happen? Check out Ohio Highway Funding – Paying Our Way to learn more!