Ohio plan for state transit funds snubs rail, non-motorized projects

Ohio Governor Bob Taft billed it as "the largest transportation initiative since the original creation of Ohio's interstate system." As it turns out, this gift to the construction lobby includes a 10-year plan for financing and construction of new highways, including many in rural areas of the state.

While maintenance is mentioned, new capacity in rural areas is the focussuch as a proposed four-lane divided highway to replace the existing two-lane US 30 in Hancock County. The state offers that extending or expanding rural highways will serve "huge and growing freight volumes" of trucks, but has it produced a study confirming that the interstate highway system is over capacity?

Instead of addressing alternative modes of freight transit, no plan or investment is suggested for moving freight from trucks to rail.

In fact, the plan makes no mention of transportation choicesno plans for financing or construction of walking, bicycling or public transit improvements. The Taft plan claims to address "Ohio's transportation needs for the first half of the 21st century," but it looks like more of the same auto and truck mobility focus we've seen from Ohio since the 1950s.

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) claims to be able to meet maintenance needs with existing funds, allowing it to "allocate new resources to long-term capacity needs." Of course, all of those proposed new miles of pavement will need to be maintained as well, creating a new long-term deficit.

Meanwhile, the state has zeroed out funding for transit, and has left more federal money on the table, funds that it has a right to spend for improving non-motorized transportation choices.

Finally, ODOT has managed to circumvent federal environmental laws that require impact studies before expanding highways such as US 30, by segmenting a single project into small pieces. To learn more, download the report from the Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest (pdf).

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