Vehicles drive along a freeway in Cincinnati. (Andrew Cenci/Bloomberg News)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The cost of materials to build and expand roads and bridges rose 11.4% last year, Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks told lawmakers Feb. 7 during a hearing where he unveiled Governor Mike DeWine’s budget recommendations.
“That’s a high number considering the long period of low inflation we’ve enjoyed in recent years,” he said.
For most years, such high inflation would have forced ODOT managers to put the brakes on construction. But the ODOT hasn’t made any cuts to the plans, thanks to the 4-year increase in state gasoline and diesel taxes, plus new federal dollars for transportation in the bipartisan law. on infrastructure investment and jobs, he said.
Marchbanks offered details on DeWine’s proposed budget, which plans to spend $3.7 billion in state and federal money in each of the next two fiscal years, which begin July 1. Each year’s spending is approximately 25% more than the current year’s budget, thanks to funding from the bipartisan infrastructure act passed by Congress and dedicated federal funding for the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project . This project, carried out by ODOT and the Kentucky Cabinet of Transportation, aims to improve the double-decker bridge over the Ohio River carrying traffic on Interstates 71 and 75 that was already overcapacity when it opened in 1963.
While the vast majority of the transportation budget covers roads and bridges, it also includes smaller pots of funding for public transit, electric vehicle infrastructure, and drone development, among others. Over the next two years, ODOT wants to spend $2.3 billion on roads and $717 million on bridges.
Host Seth Clevenger talks with self-driving vehicle pioneer Don Burnette about the pros and cons of driverless cars and trucks. Listen to the program above and at RoadSigns.TTNews.com.
The Legislative Assembly should pass the biennial transportation budget separately from the biennial general government operating budget. The transport budget usually goes first, in April. Lawmakers are expected to review and make changes to DeWine’s proposals.
Marchbanks highlighted several aspects of the budget.
While the bulk of ODOT’s funding goes to road projects, Marchbanks said ODOT will offer local governments $211 million to pay for public transit: $103 million in the first year and $108 million the next. second year. The money would be distributed to local transit agencies across Ohio.
The money cannot come from the motor vehicle fuel tax, which is dedicated to paying for roads, Marchbanks said. It comes from “flexible” federal dollars, he said.
Rep. Dontavius Jarrells, a Democrat from Columbus, asked if ODOT could help local transit agencies develop more routes and transit options. It takes many Ohioans 30 minutes or more by public transit to get to work, he said.
“In my district, we still have a lot of families who struggle to get a bus route or a bus stop near their homes,” he said. “So even getting to the bus stop can take 30 minutes by itself.”
The use of flex dollars in transit is discretionary, Marchbanks said.
“We don’t have to do this,” he said.
A Tesla Inc. Model S electric vehicle for sale outside of a dealership in Columbus, Ohio. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg News)
Miles traveled on Ohio’s roads are at an all-time high, but increased fuel efficiency means drivers are using less gas. This includes an increasing number of electric vehicles on the roads.
The federal government expects the majority of civilian vehicles on the road to be electric vehicles by 2035, Marchbanks said.
When the legislature passed the gasoline and diesel tax increases, it also created fees for electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids and compressed natural gas vehicles. The Legislative Assembly also established a study committee to consider new sources of revenue to deal with road maintenance as vehicles become more efficient. However, no legislation ever came from this effort.
DeWine’s budget proposal calls for $2 million for workforce training and certification programs related to the emerging field of electric vehicle charging, Marchbanks said.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Act is expected to provide Ohio with $100 million over the next five years to install, operate and maintain charging stations. The Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation and DriveOhio, an effort that examines smart transportation and the future of travel, would work on the programs, he said.
Marchbanks asked the Legislature to provide $11 million to begin deploying a low-altitude aircraft radar system that the state’s Ohio Uncrewed Aircraft Systems Center developed with the Department of Defense and NASA.
The goal is to help the aircraft operate safely and secure the state as a hub for drone innovation, he said.
A truck dumps asphalt as contractors clear a road during highway construction near Portsmouth, Ohio. (Ty Wright/Bloomberg News)
Drones are being developed to transport sensitive items, such as vital organs and drugs, and other supplies. They are increasingly used in rural and urban areas.
Drone technology is advancing rapidly, Marchbanks said. A class of manned ultralight drone aircraft is under development.
Marchbanks asked lawmakers to fund a $10 million “transformative transportation study” proposal. It would look at statewide and regional demographics, economic development, freight rail and highways over 10, 20 and 30 year periods. The study would identify current and future transmission links and rank current and potential future risks of system congestion.
One of the areas that would be assessed are the ties between Toledo and Columbus, he said.
In addition to Intel’s decision to build a $20 million chip factory outside Columbus, dozens of other companies have announced plans to locate or expand in Ohio. .
“We want to be ahead of the curve to ensure people and businesses traveling to and through the region aren’t caught in avoidable traffic jams,” Marchbanks said. “To that end, we regularly meet and work with local and industry experts to explore the myriad of potential options, prioritize and fund necessary infrastructure upgrades.
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