Ohio Gov. Mike DeWitt has signed into law a two-year, $13.5 billion transportation budget. More than half the amount is designated for state highway improvements.
The governor said the budget also implements a series of changes to improve public safety.
“I’m thankful for the partnership of the Ohio General Assembly in strengthening safety requirements for railroads, supporting the historic Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project, and investing in transportation projects that make our state safer and a better place to do business,” DeWine said in prepared remarks.
The Ohio Department of Transportation touts that the state has the nation’s fifth-largest interstate system, second-largest inventory of bridges, and sixth-highest traffic volume.
HB23 provides nearly $7.5 billion for ODOT to use for state highway improvements. The amount includes more than $2.2 billion for pavement upgrades, $717 million for bridge improvements, $964 million for local government programs and projects, $200 million for transit, and $579 million for major projects funded by the Transportation Review Advisory Council.
Brent Spence Bridge Corridor
About $3 billion in the budget bill is designated for the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project. The project that is touted to “transform travel to and through Cincinnati” is scheduled to begin construction by the end of the year.
The anticipated total project cost is $3.6 billion. The cost will be shared by Ohio, Kentucky, and the federal government.
Ohio is the lead agency in managing the contract. As a result, Ohio’s transportation budget contains the appropriation authority for the entire project. The actual payments, however, will be divided among the states and the federal government.
The goal for completion is 2029.
Federal highway revenue and state highway revenue are the state’s two primary revenue sources for transportation projects.
ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks recently told lawmakers that state highway revenue is collected as a user fee for those who use the roadway system.
User fees include registrations, permits, and title fees. The main source is the state fuel tax.
ODOT receives about 60% of the revenue and local governments get about 40%.
The new budget includes $360 million over two years in dedicated highway safety funding that will be used for purposes such as addressing intersections the state deems to be dangerous and to help local governments fund critical projects.
“Our mission is to provide the safe and easy movement of people and goods from place to place and this budget gives us the funding we need to do that,” Marchbanks stated.
Senate lawmakers approved the budget on a 30-1 vote. House lawmakers followed suit on a 93-2 vote.
The new budget takes effect on July 1.
No new taxes or fees
Supporters tout that the new budget does not include any new tax increase or fee increases.
The state gas tax remains at 38.5 cents per gallon. The diesel rate stays at 47 cents.
The registration fee for plug-in hybrid vehicles also drops from $200 to $150 at the first of the year.
Additionally, the budget restricts counties and townships to use handheld devices for traffic enforcement cameras.
A county or township has had authority to operate red-light or speed cameras on local roads.
Speed limit revisions nixed
At the request of the governor, one provision cut from the bill sought to increase speed limits on some two-lane highways.
DeWine said he would veto plans to increase speed limits on highways outside of cities and villages from 55 mph to 60 mph. Some two-lane routes would have had speed limits increase from 60 mph to 65 mph after an ODOT study.
“The data clearly shows that if we increase the speed limit even only by 5 mph, there will be people who will die in Ohio that would not have died if we’d kept the speed limit where it is today,” DeWine said last month. “It’s not worth the sacrifice of our loved ones on the highways. So, I’m adamantly against any kind of change in the speed limit as far as raising the speed limit.” LL