The recently passed infrastructure bill is expected to fund millions of dollars in bridge projects across the state, which could include some of the state’s largest thoroughfares.
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown said the $100 million bridge formula funding coming to Ohio through the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will bring direct funding as well as competitive grants, allowing everyone from the Ohio Department of Transportation to local county engineers to meet maintenance priorities they could not fund in the past.
“It’s about making communities safer, making bridges safer,” Brown said during a press call Wednesday.
Much of the country’s infrastructure is interconnected, making many of the state’s arteries important not only to Ohio residents, but also to businesses and services from surrounding areas.
Christina Muryn, Republican Mayor of Findlay, said the portion of I-75 that passes through Hancock County carries goods and services through Ohio, making maintenance important to the local economy and of State.
“This is a main corridor for Findlay and Hancock County where we see industrial growth and planned residential growth,” Muryn said.
These are the types of projects that are only well funded when they have community input and investment, Muryn said.
“As you go to each community, they can tell you where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck,” Muryn said.
Home Muryn County, for example, has 372 county-maintained bridges, as well as 200 miles of core highway, of which highway maintenance crews can only cover about 15 miles per year with current funding.
While Brown said most decisions will be made through ODOT, the agency has a list of priorities it has put together with help from local district directors.
Brown said he has a special regard for major state bridges, such as the Brent Spence Bridge, crossing the Ohio River between the Kentucky and Ohio state lines. The bridge, which carries the freight equivalent of 3% of the nation’s gross domestic product according to the National Manufacturers Association, needs upgrades and repairs after seven decades of existence.
ODOT and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet worked together to gather traffic studies and other documents to decide how best to use the bridge and an additional bridge to help increase traffic flow in the region. Brown said he was confident funding would be secured for this specific project, but that the total funding needed to complete the project would be “in the billions of dollars.”
Brown said his office plans to hold a meeting in February to help county engineers and other local road crews figure out how to apply for funding and what funding would work best for them. This way, projects that are still in the pipeline and those that are already underway can all receive the funding they need.
“Studies have been done, the ground has been cleared,” Brown said. “Dirt will start flying around the state of Ohio and jobs will be created pretty quickly.”
This story was originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal and is republished here with permission.
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