Ohio Transportation Program

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.

Federal transportation stimulus funds totaling $774 million will be spent in nearly every Ohio county. Based on federal calculations for transportation investment, an estimated 21,257 jobs will be created or retained through these stimulus projects, with thousands of additional jobs likely to be spurred by the economic development that will occur as a result of the projects.

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will invest $603.5 million into 113 separate roadway projects. Of those 113 projects, $242.9 million is dedicated to 30 bridge projects, $200 million of which will go toward one of the biggest projects on the “to do” list; build a new five-lane Interstate 90 Innerbelt Bridge in Cleveland and $360.6 million to 83 pavement projects, including $150 million to complete a bypass of state Route 33 around Nelsonville in southeast Ohio.

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.

The port’s recent work included loading 13 40-ton rocket segments developed at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland onto a cargo vessel bound for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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.

When combine
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.

A full list of priority transportation projects and other information about the state’s transportation infrastructure investments can be seen here.
Recovery Funding will Create an Estimated 1,728 Jobs in Western New York
Local drivers will likely need a little extra patience this construction season, thanks in part to the federal stimulus package.
New York Governor David Paterson (D) returned to Niagara Falls on Thursday with a promise to create more than 1,700 new jobs by spending $72 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding on local construction projects.

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.

“Today’s announcement represents a small fraction of the total funds Western New York can expect to receive. Here in Niagara County, millions of dollars in paving projects on local roads are expected to be finalized and certified in the coming months, and will be just one visible example of these economic recovery dollars at work. These investments will update aging infrastructure, making our roads, highways and bridges safer while also creating jobs, bolstering economic development and ensuring a brighter future for our State,” Gov. Paterson said.

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.

Thursday’s announcement offered few details on specific stimulus projects in Niagara County, although references were to plans for nine road repair projects in the City of Niagara Falls and a highway maintenance effort along the upper portion of the Robert Moses Parkway.

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.

“It’s not just 1,700 jobs,” said U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY). “It’s what economists call the multiplier effect, give money to an ironworker or an electrician and when they go spend it in the stores, buying things, that gives money to someone else.”
The economic recovery funds coming to New York for transportation projects must follow the same process required for distributing all federal transportation funds. The funds are allocated to projects that are selected by the 13 regional Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO’s) across the State, which are comprised of local elected officials, local transit operators and members of the DOT. MPO’s vote unanimously on projects for their Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), and economic recovery funds will be directed to projects on those lists. Similarly, regions of New York without MPO’s are served by the DOT, which consults with local elected officials and selects projects for the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program. The Department is working with local officials and the Governor’s Economic Recovery Cabinet to identify priority shovel-ready projects eligible for recovery funds.
“These projects will preserve the integrity of Western New York’s transportation infrastructure and improve the safety of motorists. Governor Paterson has worked hard to secure these valuable federal funds to bolster our transpor
tation infrastructure and invest in critical job creation,” said Astrid C. Glynn, DOT Commissioner.
Paterson spokesperson Erin Duggan said yesterday’s announcement included only those projects that have already been certified by the Obama Administration, including $6.3 million worth of improvements to roads and bridges in Erie and Cattaraugus counties. Certification is one of the final steps that needs to be completed before construction can begin.
The projects include:
  • $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.
As for Niagara County, Paterson said “millions of dollars” worth of additional paving projects are expected to be certified and finalized in the coming months. The list is likely to include nine road repair projects submitted to the Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council earlier this year. Those projects include the resurfacing of Pine Avenue from Main Street to Hyde Park Boulevard and the resurfacing of Main Street from Ontario to Walnut Avenues.

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.
Schumer said the plan is to use stimulus funds to re-construct the portion of the parkway from the I-190 to John B. Daly Boulevard, but will “not waste taxpayer money” between Main Street and Finlay Drive, a section being considered for removal.
“What we are trying to do is take community concerns into account, spend the money quickly and get the job done,” Schumer said.
Paterson said the state is making alterations to the original Robert Moses proposal because “it does not fit with what the local government wants to do here.”
U.S. Department of Interior Announces Economic Stimulus Projects
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced the Department of the Interior’s first projects under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 – $140 million that will fund 308 U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) projects across the 50 states. The USGS, the leading science research bureau in the federal government, supports the science needs of all the other bureaus of the Department of the Interior (DOI) and other departments of the U.S. government. The USGS will play a critical role in addressing the nation’s energy and climate change challenges.
Overall, the DOI will manage $3.0 billion in investments as part of the recovery plan signed by the President to jumpstart our economy, create or save jobs, and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so our country can thrive in the 21st Century.
“These USGS projects not only stimulate job creation and preservation, but they stimulate the scientific research that must underpin the decisions we make on behalf of the American people as the stewards of the nation’s natural resources,” Sec. Salazar said in a teleconference today. “As America’s leading earth science agency, USGS is central to helping us meet the imperatives of the nation’s energy and climate change challenges.”
Among the programs funded through the Department’s ARRA investments, USGS will dedicate $15.2 million to volcano monitoring and $14.6 million to streamgage upgrades, support that will further the agency’s recent efforts to protect life and property in places such as Alaska and North Dakota.
The $140 million announced today for USGS will fund repair, construction and restoration of facilities; equipment replacement and upgrades; national map activities; and critical deferred maintenance and improvement projects.
Specific investments include:
  • 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.
“President Obama and this Department have ambitious goals to build America’s new energy future, protect and restore our treasured landscapes, and create a 21st Century Youth Conservation Corps,” added Salazar. “These USGS projects and the science that guides them will help us fulfill these goals while helping American families and their communities prosper.”
The USGS projects were selected in a rigorous merit-based process based on the longstanding priorities of the agency, as will all projects included in the Department’s Recovery Act funding.
Noting that he is visiting Alaska next week, Salazar emphasized the critical nature of USGS’ work in emergencies. “Their monitoring of Redoubt, which has erupted several times, alerted people in the pathway of the volcano to take precautions ahead of time. Protecting public safety is invaluable.”
The five USGS Volcano Observatories have been allotted $15.2 million to modernize monitoring networks and warning systems. Many of the dangerous volcanoes in the United States may not be monitored well enough for scientists to warn the public of explosive eruptions, alert aircraft of ash clouds or warn communities of ash falls and lava and mud flows.
The importance of these observatories was evident during the recent Mar. 22 eruption of Mount Redoubt Volcano, 106 miles southwest of Anchorage. The Alaska Volcano Observatory started issuing warnings of an impending eruption starting Jan. 23 after recording increased seismic activity at the volcano, giving communities and businesses time to prepare. The observatory’s top priority is to prevent repetition of the incident that occurred during Redoubt’s eruption 19 years ago, when a Boeing 747 passenger aircraft strayed into an ash cloud and nearly crashed.
Stimulus funds will improve AVO’s preparedness and vigilance, both at Redoubt and at other similar volcanoes in Alaska.
With respect to the funds for streamflow and flood monitoring projects, USGS has a network of 7,500 streamgages, most of which run on solar power. The streamgages feature radio transmitters that send data to satellites. Because of advances in satellite communication technology, these radios will be obsolete in 2013. The stimulus funds will enable USGS to upgrade streamgages with new radio transmitters that will reduce transmission time and make data available to the public hourly, an improvement from the current wait of 3-4 hours.
“This type of technology was pivotal to addressing the flooding hazards that recently threatened North Dakota,” added Salazar. “Stream flow monitoring is critically important to our understanding of the effects of climate change on water availability in some regions of the nation, and accurate long-term streamflow information is necessary to determine how water managers can respond and adapt to these changes.”
Sec. Salazar has pledged unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Department of the Interior’s economic recovery projects. The public will be able to follow the progress of each project at http://www.recovery.gov/ or www.interior.gov/recovery.
Greg Sitek

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