TRIP releases new Ohio Transportation study

OH_Progress_and_Challenges_TRIP_Report_June_2015-1TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation research group, has released a new Ohio-focused report titled, Modernizing Ohio’s Transportation System: Progress and Challenges in Providing a Safe, Efficient and Well-Maintained Transportation System. The official announcement included several media events held last week in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo and Dayton. Representatives from local Chambers of Commerce, Regional Planning Commissions and the AAA joined TRIP officials in each locale.

The TRIP report acknowledges that Ohio has made progress, even without any recent increases in state or federal transportation revenues. Through operational improvements and the use of bonds backed by the Ohio Turnpike, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been able to increase construction investment in the state’s roads, highways and bridges from $1.6 billion in 2011 to $2.4 billion in 2014 and 2015. The increased investment helped keep state-maintained roads and bridges largely in acceptable condition.

But the TRIP study also emphasizes that current investment levels have not been adequate to close a funding shortfall for transportation improvements. In fact, ODOT has an $11.6 billion backlog for necessary road, highway and bridge improvements which are currently unfunded. Granted, the huge backlog cost includes every road and bridge problem throughout the state. All of those improvement projects would never commence at the same time. However, it is important to note that the new transportation budget recently passed in Ohio reduces highway and bridge construction spending to $1.9 billion in 2016 and $1.7 billion in 2017. That may reflect more typical annual budgets than the past two years, but it still means fewer funds for construction.

Equally important is the issue of whether Congress will approve a long term federal transportation plan that will ensure highway funding for years rather than months. The Highway Trust Fund contributes $1.3 billion to Ohio’s transportation budget annually, dollars needed to help fund road and bridge work throughout the state. But short term extensions of a few months make it difficult to plan future construction projects. Hopefully Congress will act this summer as the latest in a long series of short term extensions expires at the end of July.

In addition to transportation funding, the TRIP report is loaded with information on pavement and bridge conditions in Ohio, traffic congestion, highway safety and economic development. We’ll explore those topics further in upcoming posts. If you would like to delve in on your own, you can access the entire report at ocianews.com.  Could be time well spent!

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