Ohio: On the Road Again to Economic Recovery
By Jerry Wray
Governor John R. Kasich recently announced a Jobs and Transportation Plan that includes more than 40 major road construction projects across the state that the Ohio Department of Transportation plans to build over the next six years. These projects will improve motorist safety, reduce congestion on our highways, add capacity, and improve our state’s economy. All told, ODOT plans to spend nearly $3 billion on these projects. It is estimated that for every billion dollars spent on our transportation infrastructure, 30,000 jobs are created.
The Ohio General Assembly’s passage of the state’s $7.6 billion two-year Transportation Budget, which Governor Kasich signed into law in April allows the newly renamed Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission to seek an estimated $1.5 billion in bonds backed by future revenues to finance additional transportation projects. The bill says the projects must have a “nexus” with the turnpike and must be within 75 miles of the turnpike. Projects considered for Turnpike funding must first be approved by ODOT’s Transportation Review Advisory Council, or TRAC. The TRAC approves all major new capacity projects over $12 million. Following TRAC approval, the projects then must be approved by the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission before they move forward. Under the plan recently unveiled by Governor Kasich, all of the projects that will be funded by this revenue stream will meet that definition.
As a result of this innovative legislation, projects that were once delayed for more than a decade will actually get built in the next few years. Examples include Cleveland’s $324 million Opportunity Corridor that will link the city’s University Circle business district with Interstate 490. It will also fund the second $340 million Innerbelt Bridge project on Interstate 90 over the Cuyahoga River in downtown Cleveland. Other projects that will move forward include:
Two projects to widen I-271 in Summit and Cuyahoga counties totaling nearly $200 million
Adding lanes to I-80 through Mahoning and Trumbull counties at over $115 million
Reconstructing portions of I-76 and I-77 in Summit County at almost $100 million
Reconstructing parts of I-75 at I-280 and I-475 in northwest Ohio at over $250 million
Widening and reconstructing the I-71/I-70 interchange in Franklin County for more than $325 million
Construction of a new interchange on I-71 at MLK Boulevard in Hamilton County for $107 million
These are just a few examples of the more than 40 major new capacity projects recently announced by Gov. Kasich. All of them will make Ohio’s transportation system one of the finest in the world. Together, they will make our state a better place to do business and create jobs. They will also make our system safer and help reduce congestion. This is the largest investment in our transportation system Ohio has ever made. If not for the changes in how we do business outlined in the Transportation Budget, many of these projects would wait for decades to get built, or not get built at all. Yet our communities depend on these projects. They both want and need them. They are critical to our state’s recovering economy and will help Ohio continue to create and maintain jobs.
Jerry Wray is the Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation