Ohio Embarks On One Of It’s Most Ambitious Transportation Construction Seasons
Ohio Governor Ted Strickland (D) recently announced that 149 transportation infrastructure projects have been prioritized for full or partial funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) resources.
Ohio will spend $57 million in federal stimulus money on highway projects that won’t begin for years, an unusual strategy for money that President Barack Obama said should be used to give the economy an immediate job-creating jolt.
Unlike other states that are using money only on construction to create jobs, Ohio steered 7 percent of its $774 million share toward studies of long-term projects that Gov. Ted Strickland hopes will encourage future economic growth.
The Federal Highway Administration has no other examples of states using stimulus money for planning, although some states haven’t completed their project lists, spokeswoman Nancy Singer said.
Obama’s $787 billion Stimulus Package, designed to help turn around the economy and pay for public works projects, allows money to be used for engineering and planning. But it also says priority should be given to projects that can start quickly and be completed in three years.
While the overall approach to Obama’s $787 billion Stimulus Package is to get money to projects that can be started right away, planning is a legitimate use of economic stimulus money, said Jill Zuckman, spokeswoman at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Strickland said studies of long-term projects, as well as some types of preliminary work, position the state for future economic growth.
That includes a two-year study of a highway and rail project on the east side of Cincinnati and the design of a three-mile road connecting Interstate 490 to Cleveland’s art and museum district. The cost is $20 million apiece.
“We’re putting planners and engineers to work, too, so I think it does fit the spirit of the Stimulus Package to develop projects today that have opportunities for tomorrow,” said Scott Varner, spokesman for ODOT.
The projects were selected by a special team within ODOT that reviewed 4,600 applications from cities, businesses and individuals. Priority was given to those that would maximize job creation and economic growth, with agency director Jolene Molitoris having the final say, Varner said.
The agency balanced short-term projects designed to get people working right away with projects that have long-term potential and need further studying, he said.
The two-year, $20 million engineering and environmental study in Cincinnati will lay the foundation for a $1 billion highway, bus, bike and rail system that will open up economic development in the city and its eastern suburbs, eventually leading to 10,000 new jobs, said Hamilton County deputy engineer Theodore Hubbard.
Without the stimulus money, the project would have lingered, he said. Still, no money for future construction has been secured.
Other projects in the planning stage will get some of the stimulus funds. The state will spend $7 million of the money for engineering and design work on the Ohio Hub — a plan for high-speed rail — and give $10 million to ODOT to spend on various design work statewide.
Construction companies, which are evaluating projects to bid on, generally are happy with the list, said Chris Runyan, president of the Ohio Contractors Association.
“It’s going to give the construction industry a much-needed shot in the arm,” he said. Money for planning, while it won’t put shovels in the ground, still keeps transportation projects moving forward, he said.
Ohio’s push to fund transportation projects that can encourage economic development also shows up in the decision to buy heavy machinery at maritime ports. The number of jobs created by these projects isn’t easily defined.
ODOT will invest $34.5 million into five maritime projects, including about $6.8 million to demolish and replace cranes at the Port of Toledo. As business grows, more skilled crane operators will be hired, but how many is uncertain, said Carla Firestone, spokeswoman for the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.
Other maritime investments include major enhancement projects to the City of Lorain’s waterfront development along Lake Erie, along the Ohio River at the South Point Industrial Inter-Modal Transfer Facility in Lawrence County and about $5.7 million will build an overhead bridge crane and conveyor system that will allow a shipping port in Wellsville in eastern Ohio to become fully operational. The bridge crane will load cargo from a barge on the Ohio River onto trucks or railcars.
The number of jobs directly or indirectly related is hard to pin down, said Tracy Drake, executive director of the Columbiana County Port Authority.
An additional $68.9 million will be directed to 22 separate railroad projects, mostly targeting the state’s busy freight rail system.
The state will invest $50.9 million to support improved intermodal connections, including $14 million at Franklin County’s Rickenbacker Intermodal Terminal and Global Logistics Park, and $6.5 million at Toledo’s Airline Junction Intermodal Terminal to connect freight shipments by air, rail, and truck.
d with Recovery Act funds allocated under Ohio’s Rural Transit Program, stimulus investments will be made in 87 of Ohio’s 88 counties. (Noble County, the remaining county, did not submit a federally-eligible transportation stimulus project; however the state will be investing more than $9.7 million in non-stimulus transportation funds over the next year.)
These stimulus projects will add to the more than $2.1 billion in capital/construction projects ODOT already has planned to undertake over the next 15 months (through state fiscal year 2010). That includes nearly $1.6 billion in investments through the end of this calendar year, encompassing more than 650 transportation projects in each of the state’s 88 counties.
Many of these non-stimulus projects will soon begin construction, as part of the department’s annual maintenance and modernization efforts identified in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP). This includes 36 interstate projects and 125 bridge projects on the state’s highway system. The ceremonial start to ODOT’s 2009 Construction Season was April 7, although a number of construction projects are already active.
“These projects speak to the important transportation needs of our communities, while creating jobs and positioning Ohio for long-term economic growth and stability,” said Ohio Transportation Director Jolene Molitoris.
Combined, the stimulus resources and ODOT’s planned state construction spending will total more than $2.8 billion. Together, those investments will create or retain an estimated 79,637 jobs based on federal calculations for transportation investment.
ODOT Director Jolene Molitoris understands there is frustration on behalf of drivers who may be inconvenienced by the construction, but she hopes people view the orange barrels as something positive rather than something negative, particularly at a time when the state is hurting economically.
“What I’m hoping is that every time an Ohioan sees an orange barrel they are going to remember that it is connected to a job, and its connected to improvements for them and their family and their state and their city and so they will become something that people love.” Molitoris said.
The highway patrol is also urging drivers to be patient, rather than risk a hefty fine. Safety has always been a concern for drivers and for construction workers where work is being done, and troopers are not going to be sympathetic to anyone caught pushing the limits through construction zones.
Transportation projects in Ohio this summer will not be limited to highways and surface streets. ODOT says it is making significan investments in rail, airport infrastructure, foot and bike paths and even maritime transportation.
Speaking to members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Paterson told the gathering of construction workers that he wants to put them to work so they can help stimulate other aspects of Western New York’s economy. He also expressed hope the state’s version of the federal stimulus plan will not only combat rising unemployment, but help New York address its deteriorating infrastructure and uncertain financial future.
Paterson and other elected officials said Western New York is actually expected to receive a total of $180 million in highway and bridge funding in 2009-10, including $76 million set aside by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) for highway and road repairs, bridge maintenance and other improvement projects and approximately $32.9 million in Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) funding, which the recovery funds enabled New York to restore to the State budget.
Democrats joining Paterson made it clear that they viewed the influx of stimulus dollars into New York as a catalyst that will put people back to work and help New York’s economy recover along with the rest of the nation.
tation infrastructure and invest in critical job creation,” said Astrid C. Glynn, DOT Commissioner.
- $1.6 million of ARRA funding to replace two culverts on NY Route 242 in the towns of Ellicottville and Little Valley, Cattaraugus County. This project will eliminate culvert deficiencies and ensure good structural condition. Project completion is expected in the fall of 2009
- $900,000 of ARRA funding for a project to repair culverts on US Route 219 and NY Route 400 in the towns of Boston and Concord, Erie County. This preventative maintenance work will eliminate corrosion and restore drainage elements to a state of good repair. Project completion is expected in the fall of 2009
- $1.5 million of ARRA funding for resurfacing approximately three miles of pavement on US Route 219 and NY Route 417 in the City of Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, and Allegany Reservation of the Seneca Nation of Indians. The top layer of worn, deteriorated pavement will be removed and replaced with new asphalt and fresh pavement markings to extend the service life of pavement. Project completion is expected in the fall of 2009
- $900,000 of ARRA funding for resurfacing approximately 1.5 miles of pavement on NY Route 78 in the Village of Depew and towns of Lancaster and Cheektowaga, Erie County. The top layer of worn, deteriorated pavement will be removed and replaced with new asphalt and fresh pavement markings to extend the service life of pavement. Traffic signal sensors will be replaced and the drainage system will be cleaned and repaired to improve the quality of storm-water runoff. Project completion is expected in the fall of 2009
- $2.2 million of ARRA funding for a project to restore the deteriorating stone facing of an historic bridge carrying NY Route 198, the Scajaquada Expressway, over NY Route 384 in the City of Buffalo, Erie County. The bridge is located in the historic site of Delaware Park designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. Drainage on the bridge will also be repaired and upgraded to protect the structure from future damage and keep it safe for pedestrians on Rt 198 and Delaware Ave. Project completion is expected in the fall of 2010
- $500,000 of ARRA funding for a project to replace selected signs on state highways throughout the City of Buffalo, towns of Amherst and Cheektowaga and Village of Williamsville, Erie County. Installation is expected to be completed in the summer of 2010.
Schumer touched on plans to fund repairs to the upper portion of the Robert Moses Parkway, a controversial stretch of highway many in and around Niagara Falls would like to see torn out completely. “He used the money just as we are using the money — to put people back to work by building highways and bridges and roads,” Schumer said, referring to Moses who was instrumental in the parkway’s development.
- Volcano Monitoring – $15.2 million to modernize equipment in the National Volcano Early Warning System (NVEWS) at all USGS volcano observatories. The U.S. and its territories include some of the most volcanically-active regions in the world, with 169 active volcanoes. As many as 54 of these potentially dangerous volcanoes need improved monitoring.
- Upgrades to streamgages used in flood monitoring – $14.6 million to upgrade to high-data radio (HDR) technology and upgrade streamgages with new technologies for streamflow measurement. All 7,500 streamgages will be upgraded by 2012.
- Water Program Deferred Maintenance – $14.6 million for remediation to remove streamgages, cablewa
ys, and ground-water wells that are no longer in use, making these sites safer for public enjoyment and support local economies.
- Deferred Maintenance of Facilities – $29.4 million for projects that address health and safety issues; functional needs such as improved laboratory space; make facilities more energy efficient, and incorporate sustainable design criteria in project implementation.
- Earthquake Monitoring – $29.4 million to modernize the Advanced National Seismic System (ANSS) by doubling the number of ANSS-quality stations and upgrading seismic networks nationwide, to bring the total from approximately 800 to 1600. These improved networks will deliver faster, more reliable and more accurate information – helping to save lives by providing better situational awareness in the wake of the damaging earthquakes that can strike this nation at any time.
- Construction – $17.8 million for research facilities at Patuxent Wildlife Refuge Research Center in Laurel, MD; the Columbia Environmental Research Center (CERC) in Columbia, MO; and the Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center (UMESC) in LaCrosse, WI. Work at these centers will improve the ability of scientists to conduct innovative research on contaminants and wildlife, endangered species, wind power and wildlife, adaptive management, wildlife disease and much more. The rehabilitation of these facilities will support jobs for the local community, improve functionality, and reduce long-term operating costs.
- Imagery and Elevation Maps – $14.6 million to improve mapping data, which will then be made available for multiple uses including flood mapping, emergency operations, and natural resource management.
- Data Preservation – $488,000 to the USGS Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) to digitize, and make available to the public via the Internet, the historical banding recovery and bird banding records. Bird banding data have a wide variety of uses including applications for disease research.