Tom Warne Report, 24 January 2012
COLUMBUS – The Ohio Department of Transportation has proposed a scaled-back list of major transportation projects to account for available funding. The list includes shelving the ongoing reconstruction of the I-75/I-475 interchange, although other I-75 improvement projects will remain on track although most will not begin construction in the foreseeable future.
“We have for years terribly over-programmed, and people had expectations that weren’t realistic,” said ODOT Director Jerry Wray, chairman of the Transportation Review and Advisory Committee that sets the state’s highway and bridge construction priorities. “At one time there had been Tier 3, but that’s been dropped, and we have been terribly out of balance. Previous administrations chose to continue with the process and listed projects as if there was money available when there isn’t.”
Wray said the current project funding list contains $1.6 billion in projects for which funding is not available.
Improvements to the I-75/I-475 interchange are estimated to cost $170 million, and the commission is recommending demoting the project from Tier 2 to Tier 3. The commission said the project should keep its $3.2 million earmark that was previously set aside for detailed design so that planning can continue.
The temptation to over program is not unique to Ohio. Almost every state has fallen into this trap over the years. It’s just too easy to add a project and hope things work out when it is time to obligate funds. Many states have had to do what Jerry Wray has done; basically, he “trued up” his program. Phil Shucet did it in Virginia when he arrived and Chuck Cowan in Arizona. We did it in Utah after I was appointed as the Director. The real question is whether or not each state’s program is balanced right now given the lack of certainty in Washington and the decline in state revenues. If there hasn’t been a pretty serious adjustment in your state’s program and planned projects in the last 24 months then you are more than likely over programmed. Now is the time to do it if you haven’t done so already. TW