Ohio's Transportation Budget: Investing In Our Roads And Bridges
A Guest Column by Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof
April 11, 2017
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The Ohio Senate recently passed the state’s biennial transportation budget. This bill, House Bill 26, is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that will be enacted during the two-year legislative cycle. It provides funding for the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Department of Public Safety, as well as many infrastructure projects throughout the state. In total, House Bill 26 invests nearly $8 billion into the construction, maintenance and safety of Ohio’s roads, bridges and highway system.

The transportation budget makes critical investments in infrastructure, which will lead to improvements to roads and bridges across the state of Ohio. Our focus wasn’t just on funding, though. Throughout the process it was important to the Senate that state government run more efficiently and more effectively and that we continue our efforts to make Ohio a more attractive place to do business.

Among the bill's provisions was a codification and renewal of the Ohio Bridge Partnership Program. Initially sponsored by the Senate a few years ago, this popular program requires the Ohio Department of Transportation to partner with local governments (generally the County Engineer) to repair local bridges. This cooperation gets local governments the help they need for important infrastructure improvements, directing resources back to local communities and ensuring that our bridges are safe.

The Senate also sought to improve government efficiency, to help ensure that we are protecting your tax dollars and doing more with less. That is why House Bill 26 included key provisions allowing townships and municipalities to enter into agreements to share services as it relates to maintenance, repair and the improvement of their roads by creating joint road districts.

One of our key priorities as a legislature is improving Ohio’s economy so that employers can grow and expand and any Ohioan who wants a well-paying job can find one. Ohio has made important progress in recent years, as we have cut taxes, eliminated unnecessary red tape and regulation and made significant improvements to our civil and commercial laws. These changes have helped Ohio add more than 400,000 jobs in the past six years. The transportation budgets that I have been involved in have played a key role in this. These bills improved Ohio’s ability to use public-private partnerships to spur investment in infrastructure and allowed the state to leverage turnpike bonds to fund and accelerate the timing of many additional highway projects. House Bill 26 will build on that momentum. The bill includes a pilot program that reduces registration fees for high-volume commercial vehicle fleets. This will encourage businesses to move their fleets to Ohio and could result in more job opportunities and economic development in our state’s trucking industry.

Importantly, a portion of the deliberations on the transportation budget were recorded and made available on the Ohio Channel online and on local public access broadcast stations. Open and accountable government is a priority for the Senate. Any time the state is spending billions of taxpayers’ dollars, the process should be accessible by We the People. That is why I recently expanded televised coverage of the Senate’s proceedings to include several key committees, including the Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee that considered House Bill 26. For the first time ever, the Ohio Senate was able to bring the inner workings of a transportation budget process to Ohioans everywhere, even in their own homes.

Just after the Senate passed the final version of House Bill 26, I joined the Ohio Department of Transportation as it kicked off construction season in north-central Ohio. There are major projects being undertaken throughout the 22nd District, as well as the rest of the state.

As the 132nd General Assembly continues, I will remain focused on improving our infrastructure and our economy. As with any issue, I welcome your input on our transportation system. If you have questions, or if you have any ideas that you would like to share, you can reach me by phone at (614) 466-7505 or by e-mail at Obhof@ohiosenate.gov. You may also reach me by mail at Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, Ohio 43215.

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