COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) officially launched the 2012 road construction season last week and announced approximately 800 transportation preservation projects throughout Ohio at a total cost of $1.8 billion. However, the state still needs more than $1.6 billion to finish additional phases of 35 major new expansion projects in communities throughout Ohio.
“We sometimes forget how a well-maintained transportation system supports the state’s overall economy,” ODOT Director Jerry Wray said. “With more than $438 billion in goods shipped annually by trucks — the third largest of any state — a reliable transportation system is not only the lifeblood of Ohio businesses but also the catalyst for future expansion and job creation.”
The 800 preservation projects include resurfacing 3,700 miles of interstate and state routes as well as repairs, upgrades, improvements and maintenance to hundreds of bridges, culverts, guardrails, interchanges and hillsides. Currently, ODOT maintains and preserves nearly 50,000 lane miles of interstates and highways — enough to make two trips around the earth.
Meigs County projects for the 2012 construction season include:
• Ohio 143; slide repair, approximately one mile north of the junction of Ohio 681; estimated cost — $146,132.
• Ohio 681; resurfacing, beginning near the junction of Ohio 7; estimated cost — $1 million.
• Ohio 684; resurfacing, beginning at the junction of Ohio 143 in Harrisonville; estimated cost — $487,000.
• Ohio 7; bridge repair, located between the junctions of Ohio 143 and U.S. 33 near Pomeroy; estimated cost — $482,000.
• Ohio 124; bridge replacement, located just north of the junction of Ohio 681; estimated cost — $909,000.
• Ohio 248; slide repair, near the junction of Bashan Road; estimated cost — $531,790.
• Ohio 124; slide repair, approximately two miles north of the junction of Ohio 681; estimated cost — $300,000.
• U.S. 33; slide repair, approximately 2.5 miles west of the William S. Ritchie Ravenswood Bridge; estimated cost — $156,433.
• U.S. 33; rest area upgrade, approximately 1.5 miles south of the junction of Ohio 681; estimated cost — $109,000.
• Guard rail maintenance and repair on state routes throughout Meigs County; estimated cost — $272,000.
“The projects in Meigs County are proof that [ODOT] District 10 is committed to fulfilling the department’s mission by taking care of what we have, making our system work better and improving safety for the traveling public,” said Cary Betzing, ODOT District 10 Construction Engineer.
ODOT is funded by state and federal motor fuel taxes. The agency’s first priority is the preservation and maintenance of its current transportation system. Any money left over goes toward constructing major new transportation projects approved by the state’s Transportation Review and Advisory Council (TRAC), a bi-partisan group responsible for approving funding for the State’s largest transportation projects.
In January, ODOT announced a $1.6 billion shortfall needed to complete future phases of 35 major new expansion projects through 2018. However, ODOT anticipates having only $100 million per year to spend on new construction after all preservation needs are met. In 2011, the TRAC received 72 applications for new transportation projects totaling an additional $10 billion.
Since then, the agency has announced plans to seek innovative and alternative funding sources to help ease the financial crunch. On top of reducing agency costs and improving efficiency, ODOT plans to pursue the commercialization of non-interstate rest areas and seek sponsorship and naming rights for certain infrastructure projects saving $100 to 200 million annually. Billions more could be generated or saved by leveraging state-owned assets — like the Ohio Turnpike — and exploring public, private partnerships.