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Published: Friday, 1/25/2013 - Updated: 3 years ago


State panel OKs $3B priority list for road projects; Rail underpass for McCord Rd.in Holland to be bid next year

Work on the McCord Road railroad crossing in Holland has been touted as a safety priority. Brianna Mullinger and Cody Brown were hit by an Amtrak train when the two tried to run across the tracks in 2009. She lost a leg and he lost his life. Work on the McCord Road railroad crossing in Holland has been touted as a safety priority. Brianna Mullinger and Cody Brown were hit by an Amtrak train when the two tried to run across the tracks in 2009. She lost a leg and he lost his life.
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COLUMBUS — A state panel Thursday cemented an austere plan for Ohio road construction, including construction of the McCord Road rail underpass in Holland, but it hopes its funding woes will be over when the list is updated next year.

In past years, the Transportation Review and Advisory Council has finalized its funding priority list for the state in the spring, but this year the vote occurred about a week and a half before Gov. John Kasich will propose his next two-year transportation budget.

That budget will include the governor’s proposal to borrow $1.5 billion against future Ohio Turnpike tolls. When matched with another $1.5 billion in federal funds, the $3 billion pot will fund projects across the state.

The first $70 million would be taken off the top to accelerate the turnpike’s own efforts to repair the toll road base.

A newly expanded turnpike commission would have to approve any projects funded with monies tied to its tolls, but the assumption is that projects for which a turnpike link can’t be made instead would be funded by nonturnpike funds.

“There’s going to be more money to work with,” said Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray, chairman of the review and advisory council.

The council’s plan holds $2.7 million to take McCord Road under expanded Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks. The project initially had been pushed back on the list to 2028 because of a shortage of funds and then advanced to 2023 based largely on internal savings identified by ODOT and higher-than-expected federal support.

The project now is expected to go to bid in the spring of 2014 with construction starting soon after. It would last until 2016 or 2017, according to Bryan Zienta, Lucas County bridge engineer. The estimated price tag was reduced from about $28 million to about $17.5 million.

A total of $6 million is set aside for final touches this year along the otherwise largely completed new U.S. 24 Fort-to-Port.

Still far down on the list is the $173 million final phase of the I-75/I-475 interchange rebuild in central Toledo. Mired in the third tier of priorities, the project is promised $1.2 million for right-of-way acquisition but nothing in the near future for construction.

Mr. Kasich has held out the project as one that might benefit from his turnpike plan.

Early last year, the administration revamped its funding priority list to reflect what it said was the new fiscal reality. It contended the state had overpromised projects by $1.6 billion.

The McCord Road underpass moved up the construction pipeline because of additional federal dollars from the region being earmarked for the project and expected savings in land acquisition and construction costs. The project had originally sought $13.3 million from the state.

The project had been touted as a safety priority. In 2009, a Springfield High student was killed and a second lost a leg when the two tried to run across the track in front of an Amtrak train.

Northwest Ohio’s newest representative on the review and advisory council, Williams County Commissioner Brian Davis, said he believes northern Ohio will fare well under the governor’s turnpike borrowing proposal.

“I think the proposal put forth by the governor has been well received by our county …,” he said. “They were certainly opposed to any option of leasing it, so to maintain ownership and be able to effectively utilize the facility to generate revenue to assist in road and bridge repairs and attract projects has been well received.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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