Posts Tagged ‘Ohio Department of Transportation’

ODOT Seeks Comments on Freight Plan Draft

April 5, 2022

The Ohio Department of Transportation is taking public comments on a draft of the state freight plan.

Known as Transport Ohio, the plan provides an overview of the state’s 1,330 miles of interstate highways, 5,000 miles of active freight rail lines, 736 maritime system miles, eight airports with regular cargo service, and more than 110,000 miles of pipeline.

The draft plan said more than 1 billion tons of goods worth more than $1.2 trillion moved over that network in 2018.

The draft Transport Ohio plan seeks to determine the needs of the state’s roadway, rail, air cargo, maritime and pipeline networks, including discussing coordination, partnerships, innovation and technology for ODOT to implement through fiscal year 2027. It also recommends freight system investments.

ODOT said in a news release that the plan meets existing freight plan requirements outlined in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, as well as requirements signed into law in November 2021 as part of the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act.

The ODOT news release noted that freight transportation contributed to nearly 40 percent of Ohio’s gross domestic product in 2019.

The draft plan can be found at

2 Ohio Projects Receive Infrastructure Grants

September 22, 2021

Two Ohio projects will receive special consideration from the U.S. Department of Transportation Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program.

The projects are eligible to apply for credit assistance for up to 49 percent of costs.

The projects are City of Cincinnati, Western Hills Viaduct Replacement Project; and Ohio Department of Transportation, Ohio Route 7 grade crossing improvement.

Also designated was the Indiana Department of Transportation for the U.S. Route 36 Modern Rockville Road Project.

In a news release, USDOT said the Ohio and Indiana projects were among 44 projects that made it to the final round for funding under the 2021 INFRA competitive grant program, but were not awarded due to a combination of overwhelming demand for INFRA grants and limited funds.

Instead they will be designated as INFRA Extra projects and eligible to receive a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act credit.

USDOT received eligible INFRA applications from 42 states and Guam seeking a collective $6.8 billion in grant funds. That was nearly seven times more than the $1 billion available.

W&LE Receives State Grant to Improve Bridge

September 17, 2021

The Ohio Rail Development Commission has approved a $125,000 grant to the Wheeling & Lake Erie for bridge work in Tuscarawas County.

The project involves improving the clearance of a railroad bridge over a Ohio Route 212 near Bolivar.

The railroad owns the bridge and maintains it. The ORDC grant will be matched by the

Ohio Department of Transportation for a combined state funding share of $250,000.

The project cost is estimated at $503,320. Officials said the bridge to be rebuilt has been struck by vehicular traffic at least 20 times over the past 17 years, including this past June.

“The resolution of this long-running clearance concern will result in a safer experience for the motoring public, as well as enhanced safety for trains on this crucial corridor,” said Mark Svetlich, W&LE’s vice president of engineering.

In other news, the ORDC also approved a grant of up to $91,440 to CASTLO Community Improvement to rehabilitate and paint a railroad bridge in its industrial park in Struthers. CASTLO’s share of the cost is $91,440. The scope of the $182,880 project involves structural steel repairs, painting and related bridge improvements.

DeWine Proposes Cutting State Transit Funding

February 13, 2021

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has proposed slashing state funding for public transit in the 2022 and 2023 state fiscal years.

DeWine recommended $7.3 million for public transit funding whereas the current budget is $70 million over a two-year period.

Actual state funding, though, is $63 million due to COVID-19 pandemic budget cuts in the wake of falling state revenues.

Federal funding of Ohio public transit agencies, which is passed through the state for budgeting purposes, would be about $50 million.

Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks defended the transit funding cut before a state legislative committee by saying DeWine’s proposal reflects what the state has historically spent on transit funding.

State transit funding increased in 2019 as part of a deal made between House Democrats and the legislature’s majority Republicans.

Marchbanks sought to further defend the lower numbers for transit by saying they reflect “budget realities” as the state considers its spending needs.

 “Your point is well made that the need is there,” Marchbanks said in response to a question from one lawmaker.

“But we have in this budget, because of our COVID-based limitations, returned to our historical funding patterns.”

Ohio transit officials countered that Ohio’s spending on public transportation has been among the lowest per capital of any state for several years.

They said that funding cuts would exacerbate the challenges they are already facing in dealing with reduced ridership and revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Public transit is a lifeline for many people and it is worthy of investment, particularly during this pandemic when we’ve discovered the inequality of how COVID is affecting our communities of color,” said Claudia Amrhein, general manager of the Portage Area Regional Transit Authority and president of the Ohio Public Transit Association.

She said public transportation is the only option for many elderly and the poor to get to work and medical appointments.

Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority deputy general manager Mike Schipper noted that his agency received $25 million in funding from the current state budget.

Cleveland RTA used that money to buy 16 new buses and to set aside $5 million for rail car replacement.

“Obviously we wouldn’t be funding those things at the reduced amount,” he said.

Machbanks said ODOT’s overall funding is being squeezed due to falling revenue from the state gas tax.

Gas tax receipts have fallen during the pandemic as more people work from home and do less driving.

ODOT officials are planning to meet with transit agencies next week to discuss possible increases in the state’s share of federal “flex” funding for public transit.

“Transit is going to have to be reimagined post-pandemic and many, many transit agencies are trying to figure out what routing patterns they have to put in place, and what funding models work as they provide that critical mobility for people,” Marchbanks said.

Some state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have already signaled that they plan to fight the proposed funding cuts during the legislative proceedings on the next state budget.

Purveyors of Hope

July 20, 2020

I was going through a pile of clutter and discovered the Fall-Winter 2019-2020 issue of the Ohio Passenger Rail News that I had intended to read months ago but put aside and forgot.

The lead article titled “Ohio looks to get back into rail,” opened with an assertion that the 2010s were a wasted decade for rail passenger service in Ohio.

The state didn’t lose any service but didn’t gain anything new, either. The service it has is far from attractive given the middle of the night arrival and departure times at most stations.

The piece sounded an optimistic note that the Mike DeWine administration might be willing to move forward in ways that the John Kasich administration never did.

That movement, though, is tenuous and comes with a lot of caveats.

ODOT wants to consolidate passenger rail projects described in the state’s rail plan into a single grant application to the Federal Railroad Administration.

These include second station tracks in Cincinnati and Cleveland, a full length boarding platform in Sandusky, and a new station in Oxford to enable service by Amtrak’s Chicago-New York Cardinal.

Any grant request is unlikely to include all of those projects and the state would be seeking a relatively modest $10 million to $20 million.

ODOT isn’t willing to invest millions on infrastructure needs to accommodate new trains to places that lack service now so any new service would be confined to existing Amtrak routes.

State transportation officials told Amtrak during a meeting last year they want in return for their investment more convenient service and more frequency of service.

Amtrak wants those things, too, but is unwilling to change the schedules of its existing service to accommodate Ohio if that means breaking connections in Chicago.

Like so many articles I’ve read in this newsletter over the years there was a discussion of prospective expanded intercity rail service, including increasing the frequency of operation of the Chicago-New York Cardinal from tri-weekly to five days a week, launching a Cleveland-Chicago train with a schedule favorable to Ohio, and starting a train linking Detroit and Pittsburgh via Cleveland.

Funding for the new services would come from a federal grant program that would pay operating costs for three years. Beyond that Ohio could “partner” with adjacent states to share the costs of those trains.

All of these ideas sound good on paper because they are plausible. But will any of them happen?

All Ohio rail passenger advocates can do is hope.

There are only a handful of people willing to dedicate their lives to the cause of rail passenger service and persevere in the face of repeated rejection and indifference from public officials who control the spending of public funds.

There is little doubt that passenger service doesn’t happen without public funding.

Public funding doesn’t happen without a viable political constituency to push for it. Viable political constituencies don’t develop without members having hope that their efforts are going to result in something.

What was not discussed in the newsletter is how large of a constituency is needed to achieve political movement and how far Ohio rail passengers advocates are from that.

Also generally avoided is a frank discussion of the enormity of the obstacles that need to be overcome.

To do that might prove to be too discouraging. Instead, readers get hopeful proposals that neither Amtrak nor the state have shown much, if any, interest in pursuing.

So long as there is reasonable hope maybe the troops will continue to fight for the cause.

It may also be that those who write these articles are trying to bolster their own spirits as much as they are those of their followers.

Leaders and followers alike have been wandering a barren landscape for more than a decade and have little to show for it. At best they have been offered an occasional glass of lemonade when what they really wanted was a full meal.

So they create ideas and foster hope about what might be possible. Hope, it would seem, is all they have to offer.

ODOT Rejects Use of Funds for Rail Car Replacement

November 13, 2019

The efforts of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority to land $60 million from the state to help buy new rail transit cars has been rejected.

The Ohio Department of Transportation said the money RTA was seeking is reserved exclusively for new road projects.

The grant money RTA was hoping to get was instead directed toward work on Interstate 77 near Akron and Ohio Route 18 near Medina among other projects.

RTA Deputy General Manager Mike Schipper said the state has some discretion in where the money can go and RTA hoped ODOT would make an allowance for rail car replacement because an increase in the gasoline tax last April is generating new money for the first time in 15 years.

However, RTA did have success in getting funding for rail car replacement from the state’s $70 million transportation budget.

It was awarded $15.3 million of which $5 million is being set aside for new rail cars.

Schipper said RTA will continue to work with ODOT to identify other funding opportunities for its rail car replacement fund.

RTA is seeking to amass $240 million to buy new cars for its four rail lines. Thus far it has received or been pledged $118 million.

The agency hopes to get the state to pay for 25 percent of that, to use local funding for another 25 percent and federal funding for the other half.

A consultant’s report released last spring found that most of the cars on the RTA Red Line are 35 years old, in poor condition, and can continue to operate for another five years.

“We would’ve loved to get the [state] funding, but it’s also started a conversation with ODOT,” Schipper said.

“They’ve acknowledged it’s a definite need, and they’ve showed the first step of that by funding the $5 million. So it’s a starting point, and hopefully we can figure out how to get the $60 million we’re looking for from the state.”

RTA expected to begin the process of procuring the new cars before it has in hand all of the $240 million needed to pay for them.

Schipper said RTA can use the money it already has to begin ordering cars and buy more cars as it receives additional funding.

In this scenario, RTA would award a bid to a rail car manufacturer by January 2021 with the new cars arriving in Cleveland in early 2024.

ODOT Sets Transit Funding Levels in FY2020

August 30, 2019

Details have been announced by the Ohio Department of Transportation regarding how the agency plans to distribute $70 million in general revenue funds being made available by the Urban Transit Program in the state’s 2020 fiscal year.

The funding plan covers 27 of Ohio’s public transit agencies that fall under the urban transit system category.

The information announced this week is the first outline of how ODOT plans to distribute funding to the state’s public transit systems.

ODOT is allowing funding for projects that support public transportation in Ohio except for those that are project administration and force account work.

General revenue funding may be used to provide 100 percent of the total project cost or 100 percent of the non-federal share to match a federal operating assistance grant.

The ODOT plan includes formula allocations for funding for the 27 Urban Transit Programs, which is expected to be $16.6 million .

Greater Cleveland Regional Transportation Authority will receive the greatest share at $3,670,747.

Akron Metro Regional Transit Authority will receive $1,007,281, Stark Area Regional Transit will receive $591,770, Medina Public County Transit will receive $133,352, Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority will receive $234,773, Lorain County Transit will receive $411,047, Laketran will receive $405,946, Western Reserve Transit Authority (Youngstown) will receive $478,648, and Trumbull County Transit will receive $81,254.

Toledo Rail Bridge Being Dismantled

October 20, 2018

A high-profile but out-of-service railroad bridge in Toledo is being dismantled.

The bridge over the Maumee River adjacent to the Ohio Turnpike is being removed after the Wood County Port Authority was unable to give it away.

Known as the Upper River Bridge, it once carried the Toledo Terminal Railroad between South Toledo and Perrysburg Township.

A few components of the bridge will be preserved and displayed in a park being developed in South Toledo.

Trains haven’t used the 116-year-old bridge in more than 30 years and the tracks were earlier removed by CSX.

Officials said the steel on the bridge is expected to be removed by late December. The park is expected to open by June 1, 2019.

Officials considered using the 1,400-foot bridge as part of the Chessie Circle Trail that is being developed on part on former TT right of way.

But an engineering study determined that although the bridge could support the weight of pedestrians and bicyclists, it might not have been strong enough for use by emergency vehicles.

The structure of the bridge was found to be too poor to make restoration practical.

The Westside Corridor Coordinating Committee, a consortium of public agencies organized to develop the Chessie Circle Trail, is considering building a bridge in the footprint of the Upper River Bridge, but currently lacks the funding to do so.

The Ohio Department of Transportation’s Office of Environmental Services determined in 2009 that the center swing spans of the Upper River Bridge were eligible for the National Register of Historic Places “as a surviving example of an uncommon type of bridge technology.”

The pivot mechanism built beneath those spans is rare and will be preserved and displayed in the park.

But officials are uncertain if the bridge was ever opened for river traffic because there is no evidence that motors or controls were installed.

No Injuries in NS Sandusky District Derailment

January 24, 2018

No injuries were reported after a westbound Norfolk Southern stack train derailed late Monday near Attica on the railroad’s Sandusky District.

The Chicago-bound train derailed at 10:45 p.m. near Township Road 122. NS and R.J. Corman crews spent much of Tuesday cleaning up the derailment site.

NS spokesman Jonathan Glass said nine rail cars derailed. No hazardous materials were spilled during the incident.  The train had three locomotives and 53 cars. No cause for the derailment has been released.

With traffic backing up on Ohio Route 162 in Attica, the Ohio Department of Transportation set up a detour that was expected to be in place through Wednesday morning.

One lane of the road was blocked during the derailment cleanup.

Historic Toledo RR Bridge Available for Free

January 5, 2018

If you’ve driven on the Ohio Turnpike past Toledo you’ve probably seen an abandoned railroad bridge over the Maumee River alongside the highway.

It once carried the tracks of the Toledo Terminal Railroad, which made a loop around Toledo. It was in its day the only complete railroad beltway in the country to form a complete loop.

Now The Wood County Port Authority and the Ohio Department of Transportation have a deal in place that will allow the bridge to be removed.

The agreement, which also includes the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, requires the bridge to be documented and, if possible, reused.

The bridge was built in 1902 and in its current condition cannot be used for railroad, highway or even trail uses. CSX conveyed it to the port authority in 2011.

The port authority is willing to give the bridge to a community or park system if they will place it somewhere else.

ODOT has agreed to preserve the spans before and after they’re removed. The swing spans are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places because they are an example of an uncommon type of bridge.

A commemorative plaque and display about the bridge and railroad will be placed near its present site and parts of the bridge could be used along the Chessie Circle Trail.

Before the bridge is removed, it will be documented using Historic American Engineering Record standards. So far, no one has come forward to claim the bridge.