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Published: Thursday, 7/26/2012

Plans, funds for McCord underpass project moved up


Lower cost estimates and new funds set aside by the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments have cut the state’s share of the McCord underpass project enough that construction will be funded in 2014 instead of languishing for more than a decade, state and county transportation officials announced today.

During a “working session” meeting today, the Ohio Transportation Review Advisory Council approved a $1,653,000 contribution from the state’s “major-new” construction fund — a small fraction of the $13.3 million previously sought from that fund, but not expected to be available until 2023.

Project planners said the nearly $12 million difference was bridged with $4.5 million in additional federal funds the metropolitan council assigned to the project and a substantial reduction in estimated costs for both land acquisition and construction.

Mike Gramza, the Ohio Department of Transportation’s district planning and engineering administrator, said after the TRAC meeting construction now is most likely to begin in early 2014.

“It could possibly be earlier,” he said.

“It’s a great day for all who’ve fought so hard to accelerate the schedule,” Lucas County Engineer Keith Earley said in a statement. “We appreciate the support of the local community in getting this major safety improvement closer to construction.”

Mr. Earley thought he had funding for the project — designed to reduce traffic delays and safety concerns at the busy McCord crossing of Norfolk Southern’s main East Coast-Chicago rail line — nailed down last year when TRAC budgeted the $13.3 million for it starting in 2015.

But the Kasich administration announced early this year that Ohio’s “major-new” transportation project funding was significantly over-extended and that many long-anticipated projects would be delayed for a decade or longer because of insufficient revenue. The McCord project was initially put off to 2028, then advanced to 2023 on the basis of other cost savings ODOT had identified in its operations.

After that announcement, Mr. Earley’s office applied for a $10 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant for the project, but that application was turned down in June.

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