$3.7 billion transportation budget on the move in Ohio's legislature
The state’s $3.7 billion transportation budget is on the move. It passed out of an Ohio House committee Tuesday morning and is on its way to a vote by the full House.
Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) said this transportation budget contains workforce development money that makes it one of the state’s biggest jobs bills.
“Part of this bill is going to create and enhance further job opportunities so this is about jobs, jobs and then, more jobs,” Patton said.
This budget includes 25% more spending because of funding from the federal infrastructure law signed by President Biden in 2021. It also includes state and federal funding for the Brent Spence Bridge project in Cincinnati, estimated to cost $3.1 billion.
House Finance chair Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) said the bill is a win for Ohioans.
“Whether it be public transit which more of the urban and suburban areas care about, the rural highways, the billion dollars for rural highways which I constantly feel like are left behind on the track system. I think this struck a good balance on trying to get stuff done,” Edwards said.
Edwards said the bill includes some rail safety requirements such as requiring two-person crews. That is something railroad industry representatives said state lawmakers couldn’t create and would need to be addressed at the federal level. Edwards said state leaders are pushing the federal government to increase safety regulations for railroads but is putting the language in the state transportation bill too. He said the derailment of a Norfolk Southern train in East Palestine and the resulting release of hazardous materials proved just how much changes are needed.
“Unfortunately it takes stuff that happened, unfortunate things that have happened, to get it across the finish line and get most people on board with it so it’s good timing, terrible situation that we are in but good timing and I think Ohioans are going to be safer now,” Edwards said.
Ranking minority member Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) voted for the bill, saying agreed Democrats are pleased with those rail safety provisions.
“Every single Democrat supports every single rail safety amendment,” Sweeney said.
But four Democrats on the committee voted against the bill. Sweeney said they are concerned about the $1 billion Rural Highway Fund and hopes there will be support for changes down the road.
“I want to be supportive of that fund, but making sure that the eight counties that are excluded from that are also getting their funding appropriately and that those projects can also move forward and some projects are not double dipping in both funds," Sweeney said.
The transportation budget also includes $211 million for public transit.
The bill is ready to go for a vote by the full Ohio House. After that, the Senate will have to take it up. The deadline for passage of the transportation budget is the end of March.