Serving as speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, I have many opportunities to travel around the state. One might say that this has allowed me to become even more familiar with Ohio’s roadways, and that would be an accurate statement.
In a state as large and diverse as Ohio, it is important that our people can easily travel from place to place. This is what keeps our economy moving, and a great transportation system brings in more people, businesses, and money from out of state. That’s why it is important to responsibly provide the funding to take care of our roads.
The Ohio House recently passed two pieces of legislation that will ensure the upkeep of our highways and bridges across the state. These are the state transportation budget and the Ohio Turnpike plan.
The transportation budget allocated $7.1 billion for the next two fiscal years. The money largely goes toward the Ohio Department of Transportation ($5.6 billion), the Ohio Department of Public Safety ($1.3 billion), and the combined $136.8 million for the Public Works Commission and the Development Services Agency. These are the state agencies responsible for the construction and maintenance of the highways, as well as the funding for local projects and ensuring the public safety.
I’m proud of the House Finance and Appropriations Committee for the swift manner in which they considered the transportation budget bill. There were many factors the members had to take into account, including the growth of the gas tax, the outlook of federal funding, and rising construction costs. The provisions of the Turnpike plan were also a major factor in the process.
The Ohio Turnpike is a great asset to our state. It not only allows us to easily get where we need to go—especially for many of us in Medina County—but it brings in a lot of revenue from people and businesses outside of Ohio. By taking full advantage of the roadway, we can leverage it to help pay for its own construction and maintenance, and also to pay for other infrastructure projects in Ohio.
The plan passed by the House uses Turnpike revenues to support issuing $1.5 billion in bonds. With matching funds from federal and local governments, this will provide $3 billion for road and bridge projects that are needed across the state. Included in the bill was a provision to require a nexus or connection to the Turnpike for related funds to be used, which will help keep the majority of the money in northern Ohio. The plan also directs $70 million to speed up the replacement of the Turnpike’s base pavement.
The House Finance and Appropriations Committee did an excellent job of looking closely at these transportation bills and hearing from many Ohioans. Because of their work, Ohio’s transportation system will be well taken care of for years to come and tens of thousands will have jobs. When put up for a vote in the full House, the two bills passed with bipartisan support, and it is my hope that the state operating budget will continue in the same deliberative process that these particular bills have received.