Those Projects are Gone. Now What?

By Chris Runyan, OCA President

By now you have seen the articles announcing ODOT’s postponement of many large, capacity-enhancing projects around the state of Ohio. An article in The Columbus Dispatch a few days following the announcement did a good job highlighting the traffic congestion that would not be moderated or the hazardous crash locations that would not be fixed. I took no exception to the article; it was very good, except the opening line – “State government will spend less money in the short term by taking four times as long to rebuild overburdened highways in central Ohio.”

State government is not going to spend less money. State government (namely ODOT) is going to spend every penny it has on Ohio’s highways. Whether these projects were on some list or not is irrelevant. The state can’t build things it didn’t have money for. Because it didn’t have the money, it was not going to get them built in the timeframe that had been stated in earlier major project lists. I guess we can shoot the messenger, but that won’t create the money needed to construct those projects.

Since the arrival of the Kasich Administration, ODOT has stated it would produce a $1.5 billion construction program. The department has reiterated that is what it is going to deliver – it just won’t include the number of major reconstruction/rehabilitation projects that the Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) has been promising. Whether this is bad news or no news depends on whether you were counting on those projects being built. Based on the outcry from around the state, many local leaders were counting on those projects.

Guess what, if the public and their leaders insist on having these projects constructed, we’re going to have to raise the gas tax. The notion has been offered in some quarters. An editorial in the Toledo Blade said it was time. I’m sure there are others out there scattered around the state who have finally come to the conclusion that there is no other near-term conclusion. I was recently asked, “When will we reach the tipping point when people realize that an increase in the gas tax is needed?” Anyone paying attention should have seen that it was in mid-January when ODOT postponed all of those vitally needed projects.

Read the full text of Mr. Runyan’s article here.

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