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Ohio considers next transportation budget: Urban projects on the chopping block?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  03/11/11 @ 5:20pm

Sustainable transportation will get its first litmus test under the new ODOT regime this week. Under its former director, ODOT redesigned its (TRAC) scoring system to better incentivize community / economic growth, a "fix it first" strategy and environmental metrics. But the transportation agency didn't get to building a project that proved the concept.

Under a Republican governor and his new ODOT director, the state's transportation budget hearings this week should be interesting as projects approved under the more sustainable TRAC scoring system will be scrutinized: Will they be on a level playing field with less sustainable projects such as highway interchanges? Will interchanges in Grove City and Avon get protected while ODOT tries to trim the budget on urban, sustainable transportation projects like the Cincinnati Streetcar and the Clifton Boulevard 'BRT-lite' streetscape improvement project-both of which score high on the TRAC list? (The Clifton BRT has already secured $15 million in federal Stimulus funds from 2009 for design and engineering).

Urban leaders are already bracing for expected cuts to public transit systems. According to Ohio Budget Watch, the new ODOT has significant cuts to public transit planned-although they're twisting the cuts into gains somehow.

Gene Krebs, a Republican, former state lawmaker and senior director of government affairs and policy at Greater Ohio, explained why equity in transportation investments is so important. Testifying before the General Assembly, Krebs said, "We firmly believe, and studies have shown, that a balanced transportation portfolio, including funding for highways, ports, rail and transit can help attract economic development and assist in sustainable growth. Incomplete streets hinder economic growth and can result in lost business, lower productivity, and higher employee turnover."

To learn more about Ohio's public transit funding challenges and to send a letter to your federal and state elected officials urging them to support funding for public transit, go here.

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