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ODOT struggles to work under budget constraints

April 13, 2012
By Kevin Pierson - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

It was just a few short years ago when a $135 million infrastructure project came to fruition with the completion of the Blennerhassett Island Bridge, the final leg in the Corridor D project.

With gas prices hovering near $4 a gallon and revenue falling, those types of projects aren't exactly looming on tomorrow's horizon anymore.

The Ohio Department of Transportation has a $1.6 billion shortfall for its major new projects, and has begun looking at options such as public-private partnerships to enable new construction work to be done.

Article Photos

Photo courtesy of Ohio Department of Transportation District 10
A digger moves dirt during Phase Two of construction work on the U.S. 33 bypass project outside Nelsonville. The Nelsonville bypass is one of the big infrastructure projects under way by the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Without additional funding, many projects are being put on hold until money becomes available.

"We're looking at new ways to bring in revenue so that doesn't become a reality," said Melissa Ayers, deputy director of communications with ODOT.

Even simple things like new pavement on a dinged up roadway aren't guaranteed.

Fact Box

Upcoming area roadway projects

Ohio 7 and Acme Street intersection in Marietta.

Pike Street resurfacing in Marietta.

Resurfacing of Ohio 60 and Fort Harmar Drive in 2013 or 2014.

Bridge work in Washington County.

Source: Marietta City Engineer Joe Tucker, Washington County Engineer Bob Badger

Current projects by the Ohio Department of Transportation

Nelsonville Bypass Project on U.S. 33.

Work on the U.S. 33 and Ohio 664 interchange near Logan.

Source: Ohio Department of Transportation District 10

"We don't plan to do any upgrading projects like widening of roads. We have precious little money as it is to maintain the roads we have in their present condition," said Washington County Engineer Bob Badger.

Reduced funding along with higher costs for material and personnel all make it more difficult to complete key infrastructure projects.

Still, there is some work to be done.

Marietta officials plan to begin construction work on a project at the intersection of Ohio 7 and Acme Street this year.

Resurfacing projects on Pike Street and Ohio 60 and Fort Harmar Drive are also on tap, but remain a couple years away.

Ohio Department of Transportation District 10, which services Washington, Morgan, Monroe, Noble, Vinton, Meigs, Hocking, Athens and Gallia counties, has several infrastructure projects nearing completion.

The U.S. 33 bypass project just outside Nelsonville is currently in the second and third phase of work. Phase Two of the project is now scheduled to be completed earlier than originally projected with an estimated completion date of Nov. 26.

The cost for that phase was $45.2 million and work began in October 2009.

"Something cool we're doing is in the bridges we're actually incorporating some of the Nelsonville star bricks, not the actual bricks themselves, but the star that made the bricks famous," said Brenna Slavens, spokeswoman for ODOT's District 10.

Phase Three of the project is slated to be completed sometime in the fall of 2013 and is on schedule.

A U.S. 33 and Ohio 664 interchange project near Logan is also in the works at an estimated cost of $3.5 to $4 million. Construction on that project will begin next spring.

"That's actually the first double-roundabout in the state," Slavens said.

While those projects are expected to be completed, additional work may be placed on hold to compensate for the $1.6 billion shortfall, Ayers said.

"What we did was we aligned with when funding will be available and when those projects will be available to be built," Ayers said.

On the local level, there aren't plans for projects of that scope as funds simply aren't there.

Instead, local municipalities plan on devoting their resources to providing the best upkeep of roadways they can.

"We've made a major investment in repaving some of these streets, so we want to keep those in good condition," Marietta Engineer Joe Tucker said.

Marietta uses a program called MicroPAVER to track road conditions on its 87 miles of roadway and alleys.

That program analyzes each street in the city and every roadway section is then assigned a condition rating from 0 to 100, based on its quality.

City officials can then determine which roads require immediate attention.

"You not only can compare how each roadway is doing over time, because you have independent measurements every two years, but you can also take a composite average of the entire city and see how that is doing over time," Tucker said.

While big projects, and even some smaller ones, may take place at the state and county level, when it comes to the smallest venues of government there will be struggles in the modern economy.

"A lot of the township roads are in really bad shape right now, and I really can't see them getting anything but worse over the next five or 10 years," Badger said.



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