Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jerry Wray on May 29 opened the state agency’s doors to the public for an insider’s look at the “State of ODOT” and its current short-term and long-term financial outlook.
“Our transportation system, and therefore our transportation department, impacts everyone’s life, every day,” Wray said. “It impacts our economy, our jobs, our safety and our quality of life. And it’s a responsibility none of us take lightly.”
Noting that a tax increase is not an option, Wray used the opportunity to demonstrate how ODOT is funded, the forces contributing to a massive transportation budget hole, and what the state is doing to fix the problem. Currently, state and federal motor fuel-tax revenues have leveled off–primarily as a result of a reduction in fuel consumption, the prevalence of more fuel-efficient vehicles and the rising cost of construction materials.
“We’re looking at every option to save money, generate new money and reduce the cost of doing business,” Wray said.
In January, ODOT announced a $1.6 billion transportation-funding shortfall that, if left unchanged, would push back by decades some of the state’s largest transportation projects. During the presentation, ODOT Chief of Staff Greg Murphy highlighted many of the innovative and alternative revenue-generating ideas the agency is pursuing to fill the funding gap, including:
- Improving agency efficiency and cutting costs;
- Converting certain non-interstate rest areas to service plazas;
- Selling advertising and sponsorship rights at interstate rest areas;
- Unlocking the revenue potential of the Ohio Turnpike;
- Seeking sponsorship and naming rights of certain state-owned assets; and
- Exploring public-private partnerships that could expedite the construction of certain projects.
“When you add all of these up, we’re starting to see real savings, but we know there’s more work to do,” Murphy said. “We will continue to explore all of our options and work to close our funding gap.”
Next week, the state’s Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) is scheduled to vote on a final list of major new transportation construction projects throughout Ohio that ODOT could pursue.