ODOT finds $400 million for highway projects

The Ohio Department of Transportation has announced it has pulled together $400 million dollars to help get major road projects underway.

"It is a big deal," said OKI Regional Council of Governments spokesperson Brian Cunningham. "Not only for the Cincinnati area, but for the whole state."

The department's director had announced a serious budget shortfall in January that resulted in pushing back the start dates on nearly three dozen projects. Director Jerry Wray says previous administrations made commitments without adequate funding in place. The department says after months of cost-cutting and finding new revenue sources, many of the project delays have either been reduced or completely eliminated. The savings came in the form of workforce reductions through attrition, vehicle fleet reductions, higher than projected gas tax receipts, savings from a mild winter, and the elimination of federal earmarks.

"I have said time and time again that we have great people at ODOT who are going to amaze us and that's happening right now," said ODOT Director Jerry Wray in a written statement. "Our employees are working at a rapid pace to reduce our cost of doing business and improve service to the state's motoring public. We're innovating and approaching the delivery of services in a new way, and all of this is allowing us to save millions of dollars that we can put into our major construction budget."

ODOT says the  $400 million savings is spread out over the next five fiscal years. Two hundred million will be added to the state's capital budget in fiscal year 2013 and fifty million for each of the four following fiscal years.

According to a statement released by ODOT:

The $200 million for fiscal year 2013 includes:

$20 million not used by ODOT's district offices in 2012

$90 million in workforce reductions and cost savings as a result of improved agency efficiency ($40 million in savings carried over from fiscal year 2012 and $50 million saved in 2013)

$90 million in higher than projected gas tax receipts and the elimination of federal earmarks

The TRAC voted eight to zero, with one member absent, to approve the updated projects list.

"There's a litany of projects that need to be done in this region," Cunningham said. "So while a couple of projects moved up on the list, there are still a host of projects that are waiting on funding."

For others, like Rana Rollinson, they are not celebrating until they see the projects on the list completed.

"I'd like to see it done. That's the main thing," said Rollinson whose property is located just off the I-75 project. "And take care of what they started, that's what they need to do."

A spokesperson for ODOT says the goal is to continue to get all project back on track to begin on their previously scheduled time tables. He says additional cost savings are being considered including the privatization of rest areas.

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