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Fix Our Roads Ohio Clips February 4, 2019

Fix Our Roads Ohio Clips

February 4, 2019



Dayton Daily News: WSNY (Columbus) - Miles of Bad Roads

Ohio Public Television “State of Ohio” – Financial Shortfall for Roads

Gongwer News Service – Governor: Transportation Infrastructure Funding 'Cliff' Coming

Hannah News Service - DeWine 'Shocked' at Severity of Transportation Funding Problems

Gongwer News Service - Householder Talks Policy Aims, Respect And Legislative Power

WSNY (Columbus)- Miles of Bad Roads

Crain’s Cleveland - Greater Cleveland Partnership unveils new public policy agenda

Associated Press (Michigan) - Ex-legislative leaders: Hike fuel taxes 47 cents for roads

Ohio Public Radio - Public Transit Officials Complain About Being Left Out of Funding Committee

Detroit Free Press - MDOT director on crumbling roads: 'We don't have the money to build it right'


Dayton Daily News

February 4, 2019

Ohio mulls getting out-of-staters to pay for our roads

By Thomas Gnau, Staff Writer

State money for infrastructure projects is dwindling, and a state committee is trying to figure out how to confront that problem.

One idea floated by State Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester Twp., and echoed by State Rep. Jim Butler, R-Oakwood: Raising the gas tax only for non-Ohioans, letting state residents use something like a rewards card to demonstrate they have already pre-paid a motor fuel tax.

The state could charge a new tax for road and infrastructure work — perhaps $100 per car and more for trucks, Coley said.

The idea would be to have everyone pre-pay that amount when they register vehicles. Coley said there could be a waiver in some cases for indigent motorists.

Ohio residents would receive a card or QR code to show they have already paid the tax. Coley said he is open to suggestions on how best to arrange “the physical mechanics” of the arrangement.

“We understand the problem,” the Butler County Republican said. “It’s getting more and more expensive to build roads, and cars are using less gasoline.”

The state can no longer be wedded to what he called a “pennies-per-gallon” revenue model.

“It is no tax increase. It’s just a shift … We’re now assessing it to everybody,” Coley said.

In a recent interview, Butler cautioned that the idea is one of many being considered.

“This is just one of many different solutions that we’re looking at, where we’re going to ensure we’re going to get the resources necessary to make sure our roads and bridges … are properly maintained,” Butler said. “We need to do that.”

The bottom line, state leaders believe: Ohio’s transportation budget is greatly diminished, and the state needs new money for road projects.

The state’s roads budget had been supported in recent years by a $1.5 billion in turnpike bond funding that has now run out.

“Doing nothing is not fair,” Coley said.

A 15-member state committee is tasked with giving Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine options on bolstering funding for major infrastructure work.

“Ohio is at a huge disparity from most of its neighbors … if Ohioans want better roads, better bridges, better infrastructure, they’re going to have to pay for it,” said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at

It has been more than a decade since Ohio’s gas tax was increased. Inflation has diminished that tax’s value in the year’s since.

The legislature last raised the motor fuel tax in 2003, when lawmakers voted to phase in a three-year, six-cent increase, raising the rate from 22 cents per gallon to 28 cents in 2005.

Ohio’s gas tax rate now ranks 29th among all states and the District of Columbia, according to the Greater Ohio Policy Center.

Michigan’s gas tax was 44.1 cents as of July 2018, according to the Tax Foundation, an independent tax policy non-profit. Indiana’s gas tax stood at 42.9 cents. West Virginia was at 35.7 cents and Pennsylvania’s was 38.7 cents.

Of border states, only Kentucky’s tax was lower, at 26 cents, according to the Tax Foundation.

But DeHaan is skeptical that a card mechanism would work.

“That’s a monumental undertaking,” he said. “The first thing I think is the complexity behind getting such a card to work in every station in Ohio.”

Statewide loyalty or rewards cards will need to work with technology at thousands of different gas stations, DeHaan said. And taxing only non-state residents may motivate them simply to stay out of Ohio, he added.

“It sounds terrific to me in theory,” he said. “But that’s where the ‘terrific’ portion of the idea ends. Undertaking this is going to be next to impossible.”


Ohio Public Television “State of Ohio”

February 3, 2019

Financial Shortfall For Roads


WSNY (Columbus)

February 3, 2019

Miles of Bad Roads

Dean Ringle, former Franklin County Engineer and executive director of the County Engineers Association of Ohio, discusses the work of an advisory committee on transportation infrastructure appointed by Gov. Mike DeWine and Fix Our Roads Ohio, a coalition of business, local government and transportation officials advocating intensive efforts to repair the state’s aging transportation system.

Gongwer News Service

Governor: Transportation Infrastructure Funding 'Cliff' Coming

February 1, 2019

A state report set for release next week will paint "a pretty grim picture" of the status of Ohio's transportation infrastructure, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday.

The governor's comments Friday came after he spoke at the Ohio Township Association Winter Conference where he warned that the state is heading toward a "cliff" when it comes to transportation infrastructure funding caused by the end of the revenue stream from bonding future turnpike revenues.

"We have a serious, serious problem in regard to revenue," he said.

The release of the report will coincide with the first meeting of the Governor's Advisory Committee on Transportation Infrastructure, at which ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks will be the first witness to testify. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, January 28, 2019)

The meeting will mark the beginning of a conversation about a problem of a magnitude the governor said he was not fully aware of before taking office.

Upon learning of the extent to which transportation infrastructure funding is lacking due to several factors, Gov. DeWine said he was "shocked."

Nonetheless, he said he owes the people of Ohio a candid assessment of the situation.

While Turnpike revenue is one factor in the dearth of funding, so is the proliferation of alternative fuel vehicles, automobiles with greater fuel efficiency and a stagnant gas tax rate. Lawmakers' opinions on how the problem should be addressed vary widely. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, January 18, 2019)

Speaker Larry Householder on Friday also addressed the need for a solution during a sit down with reporters. (See separate story)

The governor reiterated to township officials that tackling the opioid crisis will be a top priority for his administration. However, he warned that even if the state gets the opioid crisis under control, illicit drug use will always be a problem, noting that methamphetamine use is now on the rise.

But Gov. DeWine said the problem can be curtailed with age-appropriate education for children beginning early on and continuing throughout their primary and secondary educations.

"The evidence shows that we've got to start in kindergarten," he said.

He also plans to attack the problem by expanding multi-jurisdiction drug task forces and making treatment more readily available.

As for another major issue facing all local government entities – cuts to the Local Government Fund – the governor made no promises, saying he does not have a magic wand to restore all of the funding immediately.

"We're not going to be able to solve every problem you have," he said.

Gov. DeWine also praised the township government model, saying there is no government closer to the people.

"This is a state of local government," he said. "We kind of like it that way."

Hannah News Service

February 1, 2019

DeWine 'Shocked' at Severity of Transportation Funding Problems

Local government officials and other Ohioans will likely be stunned when they discover the extent of the financial difficulties the state faces with regard to transportation infrastructure, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday.

Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jack Marchbanks will discuss the issue in detail next week during testimony before the Ohio Governor's Advisory Committee on Transportation Infrastructure, DeWine told attendees of the Ohio Township Association's (OTA) winter conference at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

"It was a problem I knew about before I became governor, but I really did not understand the full extent of it. Frankly, next week when our ODOT director testifies about this problem I think you're going to be as shocked as I was when I first got the briefings from ODOT. We have a serious, serious problem with regard to revenue," DeWine said, noting that funding from Ohio Turnpike bonds has run out.

"We're headed to a cliff," DeWine said.

Speaking with reporters following his remarks, the governor declined to go into further detail on the problems, deferring to Marchbanks' forthcoming presentation before the advisory committee he created earlier this week. (See The Hannah Report, 1/28/19.)

During his speech to OTA conference attendees, DeWine also discussed his plans to address the opioid and methamphetamine epidemic and his ideas for expanding early childhood education opportunities for those growing up in difficult circumstances. He said he will be a "good partner" with OTA, but noted he wouldn't be able to "immediately" restore dollars to the Local Government Fund.

Answering questions from reporters on other issues, DeWine said he was happy to see so many women elected to the General Assembly in 2018.

"I think it's a good thing. I think it's always helpful to have the best people you can find, and that's what we tried to do with our cabinet. We have a very diverse cabinet, and it is a cabinet I'm very proud of. Having more diversity in the state Legislature is always a very positive thing. I'm happy to see it," DeWine said. "You want the state Legislature to more reflect Ohio, and we want our cabinet to more reflect Ohio, and those are always good things."

DeWine said it's "important" for the federal government to avoid another shutdown.

"These shutdowns are not helpful. I'm hopeful that we won't have another one," DeWine said, declining to weigh in on whether he agrees with President Donald Trump that there is an immigration "crisis" on the southern border that might require a "state of emergency" declaration to begin building a physical wall.

"I'm not going to go down that path. We'll talk about our challenges here in Ohio," DeWine said.

Gongwer News Service

Friday, February 1, 2019

Householder Talks Policy Aims, Respect And Legislative Power

Transportation Budget: The speaker said "all options are on the table" in order to tackle a shortage of dollars to meet infrastructure needs. That includes a potential gas tax increase, which Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Media) has called "unlikely." (See Gongwer Ohio Report, January 18, 2019)

The priority, Rep. Householder said, is in maintaining current infrastructure. But that needs to be balanced with technological advances, transit, rail, busing and other opportunities, he added.

He said he'll be looking for Gov. Mike DeWine's advisory commission on transportation infrastructure to lay out the issues facing the state, after which lawmakers can take a more targeted approach.

"We do have a problem as far as transportation and transportation infrastructure in this state," he said.


Crain’s Cleveland

February 1, 2019

Greater Cleveland Partnership unveils new public policy agenda

By Jay Miller

The Greater Cleveland Partnership (GCP) will push the new administration of Gov. Mike DeWine and the General Assembly to renew the Ohio Third Frontier program, restore funding for public transit and offer a state incentive for investment in federal Opportunity Zones.

Its newly released public policy agenda also will ask the state for legislative or regulatory reforms to several minority business programs and an expansion of the Ohio Common Sense Initiative that former Gov. John Kasich created to reduce regulatory red tape. It also stresses the regional chamber of commerce's commitment to diversity and inclusion, calling it a "fundamental part of each initiative."

GCP puts together a public policy agenda every two years, timed to greet new federal and state legislative sessions.

"In unveiling the 2019-2020 GCP Public Policy Agenda, this document identifies barriers and proposes some familiar and some less familiar solutions in support of the business community and their employees to bolster weak links and allow for a burgeoning economy," said GCP president and CEO Joe Roman in a news release. "A commitment to diversity is a necessary, fundamental part of each initiative."

The themes for the new agenda are growth and innovation with a focus on strengthening the state's economic development tools; simplification of what the report calls "America's convoluted tax code" and the financial burden that imposes on businesses; and continued investment in programs that support workforce development to help pick up the pace of growth in the state, which lags the nation as a whole.


Associated Press

February 1, 2019

Ex-legislative leaders: Hike fuel taxes 47 cents for roads


LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Four former legislative leaders said Thursday that Michigan’s per-gallon gasoline and diesel taxes should be increased by 47 cents over nine years to fix deteriorating roads with an additional $2.5 billion in annual spending.

The bipartisan proposal will face resistance in a Republican-led Legislature that previously raised fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, effective in 2017.

But the ex-leaders, including Democrat Bob Emerson and Republican Ken Sikkema, said it is important to actually improve road conditions instead of trying to do so with half-measures. They said an extra $1.2 billion in transportation funding that is being phased in under 2015 laws falls far short, making the problem worse in the long term and forcing drivers to pay for car damage caused by shoddy roads. Lawmakers, they contended, paid no political price in recent elections for boosting road taxes.

“The problem hasn’t been solved, and it needs to be solved,” said Sikkema, who served as Senate majority leader from 2003 through 2006.

The plan calls for hiking the 26-cents-a-gallon gasoline and diesel taxes by 7 cents in 2020, followed by yearly 5-cent increases through 2028.

Emerson, an ex-Senate minority leader and former state budget director, said no one lost an election in 2016 or 2018 because the gas tax was raised by 7 cents. Others backing the proposal include former Lt. Gov. John Cherry, a Democrat and former Senate minority leader, and ex-Republican House Speaker Paul Hillegonds.

“The only thing I ever heard about was more talk about fixing the damn roads and more talk about health care,” Cherry said, referencing Gretchen Whitmer’s pledge in her 2018 campaign to smooth the roads. The new Democratic governor called for spending $3 billion more on infrastructure by increasing “user fees” by an unspecified amount or by asking voters to approve a bond.

Her office declined to comment Thursday on the proposed 47-cent fuel tax increase, saying it will not discuss budget items until she presents her first spending proposal in March.

Current Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, a Clarklake Republican, did not embrace the proposal, however.

It “assumes a large increase in the gas tax is a sustainable solution to road funding, but advances in automotive technology make gas taxes an undesirable long-term solution,” he said in a statement. “All the proposed increase does is place a greater burden on families and household budgets without solving road funding for the future.”


Ohio Public Radio

January 30, 2019

Public Transit Officials Complain About Being Left Out of Funding Committee


The 15-member committee that will make recommendations on how to fix the lack of funding for major road construction will meet soon.  There's one group of advocates who feel they’ve been left out of the process.

Gov. Mike DeWine’s Advisory Committee on Transportation Infrastructure will weigh options such as increasing the gas tax and tacking a fee onto electric vehicles. It includes members representing the oil and gas industry, local government, automakers and drivers. But Alison Goebel with the Greater Ohio Policy Center says something’s missing.

“No one is actually there speaking on behalf of public transportation, and that seems like a major oversight," Goebel said.

Greater Ohio does research on economic development and growth in urban and rural areas. Goebel says taxing surface parking lots, parking garages and out-of-state car buyers could net tens of millions that could go to public transit. And she says that investment could mean reducing the need to repair existing roads and build new ones.


Detroit Free Press

January 31, 2019

MDOT director on crumbling roads: 'We don't have the money to build it right'

Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press

LANSING — Didn’t they just fix this road?

Why are they patching it again?

If you’ve had that thought while navigating orange barrels on Michigan freeways, you probably were not imagining things, says the new director of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Paul Ajegba, who was scheduled to appear before a Senate committee Wednesday before the hearing was postponed because of cold weather, told the Free Press on Tuesday that MDOT doesn’t always fix roads the way they should be fixed because “we don’t have the money to build it the right way.”

It's a message that may not fit with what many Republican lawmakers — who are looking for vastly improved results with existing funds as a $1.2-billion road funding deal moves toward full implementation — want to hear.

But it's not inconsistent with messages sent by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who named Ajegba, a 29-year MDOT veteran, to head the state highways department in December. Whitmer has promised to set out a "real plan" to fix Michigan roads and other infrastructure in her March budget, and during her campaign discussed using hikes in user fees or borrowing to raise $2 billion in extra state road funds that she hopes can leverage another $1 billion in federal money.

Though Michigan's taxes on fuel are ranked sixth-highest in the nation by the Tax Foundation, its roads are consistently ranked among the nation's worst.

It's a combination that's maddening for motorists, but despite the high taxes on fuel, Michigan ranks low in terms of per-capita spending on roads. One key reason is that Michigan is one of only a handful of states that applies its full sales tax — 6 percent in Michigan — to fuel sales, but does not direct those sales tax revenues to road repairs.

Ohio, which has a similar climate to southeast Michigan, is often pointed to as an example of a neighboring state with lower fuel taxes and better roads. Ohio's fuel taxes are 29th-highest in the U.S., but a 2015 study, based on U.S. Census numbers, found that Ohio spent $510 per capita on highways, compared with $368 per capita spent in Michigan, $410 in Indiana, and $745 in Illinois.

The 2015 road funding deal, which will be fully implemented in 2021 when general fund spending for roads hits $600 million, included a 20-percent increase in vehicle registration fees and a 7.3-cent-per-gallon increase in fuel taxes.

"It's already obvious that it's not going to be enough," said Ajegba, who added that since the road funding package was approved, an additional 20 percent of Michigan roads have slipped from fair or good condition to poor condition.

Ajegba said it was estimated early in the administration of former Gov. Rick Snyder that MDOT alone needed an extra $1.2 billion a year to fix roads. But the $1.2 billion a year the 2015 package will eventually raise is split between MDOT and local governments under a formula set out in Public Act 51 of 1951, so MDOT, which has primary responsibility for close to 10,000 miles of state highways, only gets 39 percent of the total, he said.

Ajegba defended his department as a stellar example of innovative cost savings, which he said he now aims to take to the next level. He said there's no doubt that the 2015 road funding deal that hiked fuel taxes and registration fees, did not go far enough, and the department needs more money to get the job done right.

"The issue is not enough revenues for our needs," he said.

Ajegba cited a recent resurfacing on I-96, between Webberville and Howell.

“It looks really nice right now,” after a $16-million job, Ajegba said.

But the road gets 60,000 vehicles a day and in five to seven years, motorists will notice the pothole patching crews and say: “You were just here,” Ajegba said.

That’s because rebuilding the road properly, from the ground up, to last 25 to 30 years, would have cost $200 million — money MDOT didn’t have, he said.

"We didn't have the right amount of money to do the right fix," he said.

Similarly, I-75 north of I-696, where several stretches of pavement had to be closed recently for emergency repairs to potholes that were damaging vehicles, has concrete that dates to the 1960s, MDOT spokesman Jeff Cranson said.

Ajegba, 57, of Ann Arbor is a civil engineer who has designed and overseen scores of projects as engineer for the department's Metro Detroit and university regions.

He said MDOT, which has a $5-billion budget and 2,600 employees — down from a little more than 5,000 30 years ago — has been forced to make do with less. In that sense, the department "is somewhat a victim of our own success," he said. Motorists question why repairs don't last longer, but MDOT often is forced to focus on short-term fixes to stretch the impact of its limited funds, he said.

Ajegba cited several projects in which he said MDOT used innovation and "thinking outside the box" to save a combined hundreds of millions of dollars for taxpayers.

There was the uniquely shaped "diverging diamond" interchange where University Drive crossed I-75 near Auburn Hills, he said. The project, completed in 2015, was deemed "almost impossible" because of private properties valued at more than $10 million that MDOT would have had to purchase to construct a new interchange. But through use of an innovative design, those properties were not needed and the project was completed for $24 million — far below initial estimates, he said.

Ajegba also cited two separate projects around I-96 and U.S.-23 near Brighton on which he said MDOT saved hundreds of millions of dollars through innovative designs that avoided property acquisitions and environmental costs. A traditional rebuild of the interchange was expected to cost $180 million, but MDOT instead used an express lane with a local lane and completed the work for $83 million. It also used a unique "Flex Route" on U.S.-23 north of Ann Arbor, between M-14 and M-36, in which the need for an additional lane was eliminated by allowing motorists to use the shoulders during rush hours. That reduced the projected cost from $400 million to $108 million, Ajegba said.

"Our department has done an outstanding job" finding efficiencies, he said. Now, "I'm saying, 'let's take it to another level,' " he said.

He said his four priorities are innovation, transparency, efficiency and strengthening partnerships with motorists, contractors, universities and other stakeholders.

Ajegba was scheduled to be the first Whitmer cabinet member to face questions before the Senate Advice and Consent Committee. The chairman, Sen. Pete Lucido, R-Shelby Township, said he plans to hold hearings on all of Whitmer's cabinet appointees.

The governor's cabinet appointments don't require Senate confirmation, but the Senate can reject an appointee through a majority vote if it acts within 60 days. Such actions are rare.

Talk continues in the Legislature about updating and revamping Act. 51, which sets out how Michigan road funds are distributed between MDOT and local governments.

"It's a well-knitted sweater," Ajegba said of the road funding legislation. "You pull that one string and a lot of things are going to be undone."

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.