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Ohio speeding up road projects with turnpike bonds

Beacon Journal staff, wire report

Gov. John Kasich announced a $3 billion transportation plan Monday that will push forward many highway and bridge projects that have been delayed for years, including a massive makeover for Interstate 76/77 in Akron.

Money from selling bonds through the Ohio Turnpike will jump-start 27 projects in northern Ohio over the next two years and free up cash for another 14 projects in central and southern Ohio.

The wide-ranging list of construction projects Kasich recommended will touch all corners of the state.

Lawmakers signed off this year on the governor’s proposal to cash in on the turnpike. The state will raise about $1 billion through bond sales backed by future toll revenue.

“It’s the most creative infrastructure plan in America,” Kasich said.

Ohio will be able to move forward with a large number of road projects, he said, at a time when other states are raising taxes or struggling to keep up with needed work.

Improving the state’s infrastructure also will make it more attractive to businesses and bring jobs to the state, Kasich said.

“It means we’re going to be a much stronger economic artery for America,” he said.

Akron-area projects recommended for funding are:

• A $96.4 million makeover for the Interstate 76/77 interchange with South Main Street and South Broadway in Akron. The Ohio Department of Transportation is unveiling those project details to the public this week. (See related story for more details.)

• A $193.5 million widening along Interstate 271 from Macedonia in Summit County to Bedford Heights in Cuyahoga County. The project is slated to begin in 2015.

• A $47 million widening of U.S. Route 42 to five lanes in Medina County. The project is slated to start in 2016.

• A $24.9 million effort to rebuild Mahoning Road to make it more transportation friendly for the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority. Some of that work has started.

Daniel Colantone, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Akron Chamber, praised the effort in a letter to the governor.

“As a regional economic development organization that is focused on fostering a business climate that promotes business and job growth, the movement of people and goods is a key piece to regional, national and global competitiveness,” he wrote.

“The Greater Akron region is at the epicenter of the Northeast Ohio regions’ north-south and east-west transportation system corridors. Hence, we thank you for recommending the [local projects.]”

Elsewhere in the state, projects include:

• Adding a third lane along Interstate 75 in Toledo and rebuilding an interchange at Interstate 475 and U.S. 20 in Lucas County.

• Constructing a second inner-belt bridge near downtown Cleveland and widening Interstates 77 and 271 in Cuyahoga County.

• Rebuilding the Interstate 70 and 71 interchange in Columbus and the Interstate 270 and U.S. 33 interchange in Franklin County.

•  Widening Interstate 75 in Hamilton County and building a new interchange at Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King Drive in Cincinnati.

“The projects are all high-priority projects for each of the regions,” said Greg Murphy, chief of staff for the Ohio Department of Transportation. “Some they’ve been waiting on for decades.”

Kasich’s recommendations await a vote by the state’s Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC), which will meet Thursday.

The group reviews and approves funding for ODOT’s largest construction projects.

Nearly three dozen multimillion-dollar road projects slated for the coming years were put on hold or delayed significantly in early 2012 because the state transportation department said there wasn’t enough money.

The turnpike financing plan essentially erases a $1.6 billion highway budget deficit.

Work is slated to begin in 2014 or the next year on most of the 41 projects outlined Monday. A few won’t get underway until the following years.

Final approval is still needed from a state panel that oversees funding for high-cost transportation projects.



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