‘People will get hurt’ without more money to fix roads : ODOT director

Infrastructure problems in the Tri-State

COLUMBUS, OH (FOX19) - Roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure are falling apart across Ohio, and now officials are asking for more money to fix it.

The man who leads the Ohio Department of Transportation, Director Jack Marchbanks, said something needs to be done now - or people are going to get hurt on our roads.

“We are facing a very real, impending crisis,” Marchbanks said in testimony before the House Finance Committee in Columbus Wednesday.

Ohio has the second largest bridge inventory in the nation, he noted. It also has fourth largest interstate system.

“We are facing a future where will clearly not be able to maintain the quality of the system that we have, let alone improve on it,” he told lawmakers.

Cincinnati resident Desiree Carter crosses the Western Hills Viaduct daily.

She’s also a public school bus driver.

“It needs to be where it needs to be. The main focus needs to be fixing these roads and these bridges," she said.

ODOT has made several cuts over the past years trying to save money including cuts including cutting staff, according to Marchbanks.

In the last two years, ODOT went from 5,700 employees to 4,900.

He blames past spending, borrowing, and no revenue in more than a decade for ODOT’s current financial situation.

“If we do not have the funding to fix Ohio roads, more crashes will happen, more people will get hurt (and possibly die)," he told lawmakers.

The last time Ohio saw a fuel tax increase was in 2003 under the Taft administration, he said.

It was increased by 2 cents per gallon for three consecutive years.

The current state gas tax is at 28 cents per gallon.

It would help if the fuel tax rate was tied to inflation, like it is in Indiana and Michigan, Marchbanks said.

“Motorists are putting more wear and tear on our roads than ever but the money they are contributing for maintenance is not keeping up,” he said.

Meanwhile, cars are more fuel efficient, so less money is coming in through the gas tax. he noted.

“Instead of increasing that revenue stream, the state has been taking on more and more debt to complete projects and maintain the status quo," he said. “This borrowing and adverse circumstances have pancaked into a situation that is irresponsible to continue."

But drivers like Carter don’t care how much it costs to fix our infrastructure - as long as it doesn’t cost them.

“We already pay an arm and a leg as is now," she said. “Just think if it was to go up. Every cent matters.”

Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration is expected to introduce a proposed transportation budget bill in the coming weeks.

The bill will have to be signed into law by March 31.

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