Sunday, May 27, 2018
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I-475/I-75 projects on Kasich's short list for turnpike funding

CLEVELAND — A $176 million reconstruction of the I-475 interchange with I-75 and other improvements to I-75 through Lucas, Wood, and Hancock counties will be among the first beneficiaries of Ohio Turnpike funding off the turnpike corridor if Gov. John Kasich has his way.

If the projects make the draft list as expected with a vote on Thursday, the interchange project will be advanced by 12 years to 2015.

“It really is amazing what you can do when you think a little differently...,” Mr. Kasich said in Cleveland today. “We're going to see a lot of projects in a short period of time. People are going to get jobs building these things.”

In Cleveland to promote perhaps the highest profile project in the state that would be advanced by the turnpike borrowing, Mr. Kasich ran down the list of other projects, including several in northwest Ohio.

Among them are:

--The addition of a third lane and other improvements on I-75 in Lucas County from Phillips Road to I-280 at a cost of $51 million. Like the I-475 / I-75 interchange, construction would begin in 2015 rather than in 2027 under the current priority list without the infusion of the turnpike funds.

--Reconstruction of the I-475 interchange with U.S. 20 for safety improvement at a cost of $59 million. The project would also begin in 2015, advanced 12 years.

--Widening and a third lane addition on I-75 in Wood County, built in four phases. The price tag is $197 million and would also begin in 2015, advanced 13 years.

--Reconstruction of the U.S. 224 bridge and interchange with I-75 in Hancock County at a cost of $12.5 million. Construction would begin next year.

--Widening and other improvements to U.S. 250 in Erie County from U.S. Route 6 to Bogart Road. The price tag is $31.7 million.

--The long-awaited railroad pass separation on McCord Road in Springfield Township at a cost of $29.3 million. It will begin construction next year, one year earlier that previously slated.

The state Transportation Review and Advisory Council, which sets the state’s priorities for funding major road and bridge projects, will meet Thursday to approve a draft list that will then be subject to public comment. But Mr. Kasich sought to get some early mileage out of it by unveiling his own top priorities.

TRAC is expected to approve a final list on Aug. 22.

This list will mark the first that assumes funding from new borrowing against future tolls collected by the Ohio Turnpike to fund projects off the turnpike corridor. A total of $1.5 billion is expected to be eventually borrowed with the first $1 billion approved by the newly renamed and restructured Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission last week.

The funding is expected to draw a matching $1.5 billion in federal and local funds.

The commission also voted last week to start raising tolls at a rate of 2.7 percent a year for most users of the turnpike for the next 10 years to begin paying for the quadrupling of its debt. Exempt from the increases are passenger-car commuters using E-ZPass or a recognized equivalent from another state and traveling less than 30 miles between exits.

Commission approval is needed to any project for which TRAC seeks funding. The law that set the stage for turnpike money to be used for non-turnpike projects requires that 90 percent of those projects be within 75 miles of the turnpike corridor, which, along I-75, would be as far south as the Lima area.

The commission would also have to consider whether the projects have some relationship to or impact on the turnpike and its mission.

Mr. Kasich made the announcement inside Orlando Baking Company, near where I-490 now ends in Cleveland.

The $324 million Opportunity Corridor would be a new boulevard carrying I-490 the rest of the way into the heart of the city.

“(The new project) will make it more convenient for our employees,” said Sonny Orlando, president of the family-owned, 140-year-old company. “It will also help the Cleveland Clinic, UH (University Hospitals), and Case Western.”

The business also sometimes uses the turnpike for its deliveries, including to Toledo, but Mr. Orlando said he's willing to pay higher tolls.

“If they put it to great use like this ...,” he said.

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