Times Reporter

July 29, 2005

Highway bill to provide Ohio with $7.5 billion

By Paul M. Krawzak

Copley News Service

WASHINGTON – Ohio roads, bridges and mass transit will gain more than $7.5 billion over the next five years from a long-delayed highway bill that also includes millions of dollars in earmarked projects for Tuscarawas, Harrison and Stark counties.

The funds are part of a $286.4 billion, multi-year transportation reauthorization agreement that was expected to win approval in the House late Thursday night and in the Senate today.

The bill provides more than $20 million for specific highway and bridge projects in Stark County, more than $8 million for projects in Tuscarawas County and more than $4 million for projects in Harrison County. The funds are part of an estimated $20 billion set aside in the bill for projects identified by lawmakers as beneficial to their constituents and which critics deride as pork.

In Tuscarawas County, Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, a member of the House Transportation Committee, said his $7.1 million in earmarked projects all survived in the final bill.

Ney reserved $5 million for construction of an interchange at County Rd. 80 and I-77 near Dover.

His earmarks also include $2 million for three projects on the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, including a pedestrian bridge over I-77 in Bolivar, a tunnel beneath a railroad south of Zoar and an aqueduct bridge over the Tuscarawas River north of Bolivar.

Another $1.6 million was earmarked for Tuscarawas County to add left turn lanes, traffic signals and other safety improvements along Rt. 39. Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, wrote that project into the bill.

Ney also secured $100,000 to begin a feasibility study examining the need to raise the elevation of state highways affected by flooding in Tuscarawas County earlier this year.

In Harrison County, Ney said, about $4.1 million will go toward the reconstruction of the existing Industrial Park Rd. from local to state standards and specifications making it eligible for state funding. Industrial Park Rd. bypasses the southwest quadrant of Cadiz between Rts. 9 and 22.

In addition, Ney secured $550,000 to study the construction of a four-lane limited access road to link Cadiz and Newcomerstown.

Among the projects secured by Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, in Stark County and their approximate funding:

– $4 million to widen Market Ave. between 55th St. and Applegrove in Plain Township.

– $2.4 million to widen Applegrove between Main St. and Rt. 43 in North Canton and Plain Township.

– $2.4 million to build a new interchange at Gracemont St. and I-77 in Bethlehem Township.

– $1.6 million to upgrade the intersection of Fulton Dr. and Wales Ave. in Jackson Township.

– $1.6 million to widen Hills and Dales Rd. between Woodlawn Ave. and Whipple Ave. in Jackson Township.

– $1.04 million for Riverland Avenue Bridge replacement over the Tuscarawas River in Bethlehem Township.

– $320,000 for replacement of Cleveland Avenue Bridge over Nimishillen Creek in Canton.

Stark County also will receive $2.5 million for safety improvements along Rt. 172 in an earmark secured by Voinovich and DeWine. In a statement, the senators said the stretch of road has had 486 crashes, causing one death and 208 injuries in recent years.

The landmark legislation, which authorizes federal transportation funding through 2009, is expected to create more than 20,000 jobs in Ohio during that time.

More than $6.6 billion of the funding is reserved for highway and bridge construction and repair in Ohio, while another $859 million is for mass transit. Overall, the funding is 29 percent higher than the state’s allocation from the previous transportation authorization, according to officials.

The bill gradually would increase the state’s return on federal highway taxes to 92 percent of what Ohio motorists contribute from the current 90.5 percent, said Voinovich, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which handles transportation issues.

The current $218 billion, six-year transportation spending plan expired in September 2003. Because of Congress’ failure to pass a new bill, lawmakers had to approve 11 temporary extensions to allow federal spending to continue for a few months at a time.