Wednesday, Jun 29, 2016
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Ohio panel backs delays in many big road projects

Ohio's Transportation Review Advisory Council has adopted, as a draft, a long-range construction plan that postpones many major projects for decades under the assumption that the Ohio Department of Transportation will have just $100 million annually to spend on such work.

"What we are doing right now is trying to provide communities with a realistic and honest look at the amount of money ODOT anticipates having in future years and balancing that with major new and important transportation construction projects throughout Ohio," department director Jerry Wray said after the 9-0 vote Tuesday. "The result is that many projects are pushed back years and, in some cases, decades."

The vote starts a 45-day public comment period during which written remarks may be sent, via either email or regular mail, to the transportation department about the plan. The email address is trac@dot.state.oh.us; the postal address is Ohio Department of Transportation, c/o Jim Gates, 1980 West Broad St., Columbus, OH, 43223.

Once the comment period ends, the council will decide whether further hearings are needed before proceeding to adopt a final construction plan. Last year TRAC held regional hearings in Akron, Columbus, Cincinnati, and Toledo for testimony about construction projects.

The draft plan the council unveiled last month rescheduled projects in an order based on when the department previously proposed awarding construction contracts. In the Toledo area, that pushed back $13.3 million of state funds to build the McCord Road underpass in Holland to fiscal 2028 from fiscal 2015 to fiscal 2028. Lucas County Engineer Keith Earley said that would essentially kill the $37.5 million project because other funds in its budget probably would expire by then.

The proposal includes planning or engineering funds for many area projects, but no other northwest Ohio new-construction money through 2036. Among projects on indefinite hold would be the final phase of rebuilding the I-75/I-475 junction in central Toledo.

-- David Patch

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