Engineer analyzes county status

By Dean Wright -

GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County Engineer Brett Boothe recently released his annual report to Gallia County Commissioners detailing the county’s infrastructure status which will soon be distributed publicly as pamphlets make it to press.

According to the engineer’s opening message, the office and highway department had a busy year with back-to-back mild winters. Boothe credits the weather for allowing county workers some time to catch up on needed construction and maintenance, especially after the 2015 storming and floods which left many roads, culverts and bridges throughout the region devastated. Due to this, crews were able to construct over 17 miles of paved asphalt roads, bridge and culvert replacements along with many uncountable hours of maintenance and ditching work.

Boothe continues to claim funding is an issue for the engineer’s office as material inflation and stagnant revenue make pushing forward with construction efforts a difficulty. Boothe recently testified before the Ohio General Assembly in regards to the state transportation bill as a member of the County Engineers Association of Ohio. Boothe believes indexing gas tax would assist in allowing county engineer’s to catch up with road construction needs as he claims license plates fee do little in rural regions.

“No money from real estate tax, sales tax, income tax or the (Gallia) County Commissioner’s general fund is used for Gallia roads and bridges,” Boothe writes.

According to previous information provided by the engineer, it costs around $70,000 to lay asphalt on a road.

According to Boothe’s estimates, if one compares the county and ODOT system, county road miles number around a third larger in total than ODOT road miles statewide. There are twice as many bridges in the county system, Boothe said.

“If you look at all the deficiencies in the (physical) state, you’ll find out that they’re all in the county (government) system and not the state (government) system.” said Boothe. “But if you look at the 28 cent gas tax, counties collectively, between all of us, get somewhere around 3.2 cents of that 28 cents gas tax going to county roads and bridges. ODOT gets around 17 cents.”

In a previous Tribune story, Boothe said in Gallia, there are 454.85 miles of road to maintain with 208.92 being asphalt, 128.17 being chip and seal and 117.76 being gravel, according to Boothe’s numbers. Boothe says his budget is around $10 million including state and federal grants. To meet current needs to maintain roads and bridges, the county needs roughly $2.5 million a year.

Boothe says asphalt roads have a 15 year life before needing to be repaved. To keep up, 13.9 miles need repaved a year to maintain a maintenance cycle. Averaging four miles per year (not including grant money) in Gallia’s current trends, there is a measure of 9.9 miles a year with a cost of roughly $70,000 a mile with a shortfall cost of around $693,000 year. Chip and seal for a five year life to catch up costs around $334,800 a year and to upgrade gravel roads from chip and seal costs several times more.

“I emphasized the importance of upgrading our gravel roads to be paved to the Senate even more so than in the House,” said Boothe. “It’s a matter of economic development for this area and attracting more jobs.”

Boothe proposed implementing indexing measures to ensure revenues keep pace with inflation and fuel consumption patterns. This would increase state gas tax to help with road maintenance and building projects. Ideally, Boothe would like to tie gas tax with increasing resource cost for maintenance needs to make certain road needs could continue to be funded at a reasonable pace as he feels construction materials have tripled in the last ten years but state officials have been reluctant to raise the gas tax. Boothe also proposed that vehicles that operate on alternative energy, such as electric cars, have a revenue stream created because drivers do not pay the traditional gas tax which maintains roads. Overall, he feels current measures cannot help maintain rural needs to build roads.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright