Canton Repository

January 12, 2005

Failure to pass transportation bill could hurt Stark

By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service

WASHINGTON — Ohio’s transportation chief warned Tuesday that unless Congress passes a multiyear transportation bill soon, the state will have to delay an undetermined number of highway projects.

Officials would have to put off at least one of three planned projects for lack of funds, said Paul Jaeger, technical director for the Stark County Area Transportation Study.

He said projects that could be affected include adding a fifth lane to Portage Street NW between Interstate 77 and Whipple Avenue in Jackson Township, upgrading traffic signals on Fulton Drive in Canton and widening the intersection of S. Main Street and Everhard Road in North Canton.

Jaeger said the delay has not affected Stark County transportation spending so far.

Gordon Proctor, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, joined several other state transportation chiefs who traveled to the capital to urge Congress and the White House to complete a transportation reauthorization bill by April.

Congress and the Bush administration failed to agree last year on legislation to reauthorize federal transportation spending for another six years. The last highway bill expired Sept. 30, 2003.

The legislation would lay out the maximum that the federal government could spend on highways and public transit, giving states a basis for planning and raising funding for multiyear projects.

Delay in passing a bill has not affected transportation funding in Ohio so far, officials said.

But according to Proctor, failure to enact legislation this year could force the state to cut its construction budget from $1.3 billion to $1.2 billion or $1.1 billion.

Tuscarawas County Engineer Joseph Bachman was not available to discuss the effect of the legislation on highway projects in the county.

Senate Transportation Committee Chairman James Inhofe, R-Okla., plans to reintroduce a highway bill this year. He has expressed uncertainty whether it will win the support of President Bush, who considered the $318 billion version that Inhofe sponsored last year to be too costly.

Congress will not resume work on transportation legislation until returning Jan. 20, when Bush is to be inaugurated.