The lack of funding for Ohio’s unsafe and deteriorating public highways, roads and bridges has brought on new initiatives from officials to repair them.
Ohio has nation’s fourth largest interstate system, second largest inventory of bridges and sixth highest number of vehicle miles traveled, new initiatives like Fix Our Roads Ohio, also known as FOR Ohio, have started.
This coalition consists of business, local government and transportation industry leaders which educates Ohioans and policymakers on the critical needs of transportation infrastructure, according to a news release.
FOR Ohio advocate for funding solutions that will provide long-term investments that will benefit Ohio in its transportation future, according to the release.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced Feb. 21 a new proposal to raise Ohio’s motor vehicle fuel tax by 18 cents a gallon, which will fund critical road and bridge maintenance through the state.
This will take Ohio’s current 28 to 46 cents a gallon.
If the General Assembly approves the measure, the tax would take effect this summer and adjusted according to inflation each year, according to Dan Tierney, press secretary for DeWine.
The increased fuel tax would have to be voted on and approved by the approval date of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s budget in March.
Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks appeared before the Ohio House Finance Committee on Feb. 21 to introduce the $7.43 billion transportation budget that will fund operations at ODOT for the next two years.
This includes the proposed 18 cent increase.
The revenue raised in the first year is about $1.2 billion and will be split between ODOT and local governments, including Lorain County, according to ODOT officials.
ODOT would receive 60 percent of that funding and local governments would get about 40 percent, which can only be used for construction, reconstruction, maintenance and repair of public highways and bridges.
In fiscal year 2020, ODOT would receive $750 million in revenue to pave roads, fix guardrails, fill potholes, clear snow and ice, maintain bridges and improve safety, according to a news release.
It also will provide local governments with a significant increase in the funding, including $1.6 million for every county in the state.
Lorain County Engineer Ken Carney said funds provided to the state and through local government will benefit all since the price for equipment and supplies have increased.
According to a map provided by ODOT, Lorain County has a few highways projected to have poor pavement within the next few years.
Carney shared examples of what the new tax increase would assist in maintenance or construction.
The information is from data collected on maintenance and construction from the previous tax increase in 2006 and compared it to 2018.
Since 2006, costs have gone up for supplies and equipment, while the hourly pay for a highway worker has increased, data shows.
For example, a hot mix asphalt was installed at $105 per cubic yard in 2006 during the last increase.
In 2018, covering a cubic yard now costs $138, and represents a 24 percent increase, the information said.
Another example is the salt delivered to a highway facility was previously $32.83 per ton.
Currently, it’s $71.64 per ton and represents a 118.2 percent increase.
Lastly, the base hourly wage for a highway worker ll was $15.55 an hour.
Currently, the hourly pay is $17.89 an hour, which represents a 15 percent increase.
Tierney said DeWine put a task force together to carefully look at the state’s funding and eventually decided the tax increase was the state’s best option rather than borrowing funds.
Due to significant borrowing throughout the previous administrations, before ODOT spends any motor fuel tax money for its intended maintenance purposes, they have to first take $390 million to pay debt service, he said.
Additionally, raising the tax will help fill the void as Ohio’s motor fuel tax revenues have remained relatively flat over the last 15 years because fuel consumption has increased an average of only one-third of one percent a year, Tierney said.
The use of electric-only vehicles also have had an increased prevalence, he said.
According to ODOT’s Budget facts, due to flat revenues, highway construction inflation and large debt payments, ODOT is facing a future where they cannot maintain the quality of the state highway system Ohio has, let alone improve upon it.
Without a change in the revenue available to ODOT to do its job, more roads and bridges will slip into a crumbling and potentially dangerous state, the website said.
Maintenance and construction
Matt Bruning, press secretary of ODOT’s Central Office, said this tax increase will help all counties with maintenance and construction.
However, this will lead to a delay in planned work over the summer, but may help ODOT balance its budget in the short-term, making a better and faster return, according to ODOT’s website.
Curt Steiner, a spokesman for FOR Ohio, has said Ohio faces an emerging financial crisis and DeWine is attacking the problem head on.
“ODOT’s biennial budget proposal as outlined by Director Jack Marchbanks, provides significant new revenue to fund a robust construction budget to maintain Ohio’s state and local roadways and to make needed improvements to provide safe transportation and to keep our economy moving,” Steiner said. “The new revenue not only prevents a scheduled halt this summer in jobs-producing new projects, but it provides sufficient levels of funding to move Ohio forward for years to come.”
Steiner said FOR Ohio urges all legislators to listen to the facts and adopt legislation that assures Ohio has a safe and modern transportation system to meet the economic and day-to-day needs of the state and its people.