CLEVELAND — In the past, Ohio has had to get creative when it came to finding money for bridges. A decade ago Governor John Kasich bonded against future Turnpike revenue to finish the Innerbelt Bridge project. But with the bi-partisan Infrastructure Law recently passed in Washington the doors to the vault have been opened.
"There will be $97 million coming to Ohio alone this year alone just through the formula funds that are in here and that's going to make a big difference in Cuyahoga County and really across the state,” Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg told News 5. “Ohio has a lot of those bridges that are in serious need of repair and when a bridge goes out of course that's a safety concern but if it has to be shut down as a safety precaution it becomes a major economic issue. We count on these bridges for people and goods as we continue to deal with supply chain issues to get to where they need to go.”
And while the big bridges get the headlines this program makes it possible to repair and replace the smaller locally owned bridges that can be even more disruptive if lost in rural or smaller communities.
“There are thousands and thousands of bridges that are called 'off-system' bridges, in other words, they are locally owned and operated and they're just as important if you count on that bridge to get to where you need to go,” Buttigieg said. “If that bridge is unavailable that could mean a half hour or more out of your day or a longer delivery time just to get to where you need to go so we set up this program specifically so that it could help with both the bigger bridges and the smaller ones including new incentives to help with those locally owned and operated bridges.
“Usually there's an 80-20 cost-share with Federal and Local dollars but we're going to cover 100% of the cost on key bridges that the local communities believe they wouldn't be able to get done otherwise,” he said.
In all, Ohio will receive nearly a half-billion dollars over the next five years but neighboring Pennsylvania will get more than three times that $1.6 billion. Buttigieg said it's need-based. While 5% of Ohio bridges are structurally deficient the number is three times higher in the commonwealth.
Still, does what Ohio did a decade ago in finding money in our own state to replace some of its bridges hurt us today?
“I don't think that will be to the disadvantage of Ohio because the need is so great,” he said. “Look several states, my home state of Indiana did something similar, took pretty extraordinary measures in order to make sure the funding was there, and yet there is still this enormous repair backlog and that's exactly why we have such a sense of urgency about getting these dollars out."
“A state that's been responsibly acting to the best of their ability they're going to be in a better position because you will have fewer of those absolutely desperate situations but just as many places where these dollars that we're making available can be put to good use,” said Buttigieg.