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.
Gallia county projects for the 2012 construction season include:
• Ohio 218; slide repair, approximately 8.7 miles north of the junction of Ohio 7; estimated cost — $386,521.
• Ohio 218; resurfacing, beginning approximately 3.83 miles north of the junction of Ohio 7; estimated cost — $1.73 million.
• Ohio 160; resurfacing, beginning approximately 14.67 miles north of the Gallipolis; estimated cost — $3.58 million.
• Ohio 7; slide repair, approximately three miles north of Crown City ; estimated cost — $695,000.
• Ohio 554; resurfacing, beginning at the junction of Ohio 7; estimated cost — $1.35 million.
• Ohio 735; bridge repair, approximately 1.14 miles north of the junction of Ohio 7; estimated cost — $271,000.
• Ohio 218; bridge replacement, approximately 13.89 north of the junction of Ohio 7; estimated cost — $767,000.
• Ohio 790; resurfacing, beginning at the junction of Ohio 218; estimated cost — $928,000.
• Ohio 233; slide repair, approximately 7.45 miles west of the junction of Ohio 141; estimated cost — $267,173.
• Ohio 160; slide repair, approximately .5 north of Gallipolis; estimated cost — $459, 036.
• Ohio 7; slide repair, approximately 20.73 miles north of the Gallia County line; estimated cost — $692,607.
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.