At 2011 “Best New Restaurant” Yellow Brick Pizza, Brown is Joined by Workers on Interchange Project and Local Business Owners Who Outline How Delay of Project Would Affect Business and Continued Development of the Old Towne East Neighborhood
Each Day, 137,000 Cars and Trucks Drive Through the I-71/670 Dubbed as “Crawlumbus,” Averaging Two Accidents Daily; Interchange Project’s 2014 Reopen Date at Risk of Being Delayed
COLUMBUS, OH — With critical funds to complete the I-71/670 interchange at risk of lapsing unless Congress extends the highway bill before it is set to expire at the end of March, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined local business owners and workers to call for passage of this critical transportation jobs bill. Unless the highway bill is reauthorized, critical roadwork projects, like the I-71/670 interchange, will halt and Ohio stands to lose an estimated $1.39 billion, jeopardizing more than 50,050 Ohio jobs.
“Investments in road construction projects like the I-71/670 interchange put Ohioans back to work, while promoting economic growth,” Brown said. “When companies decide where to locate, expand, and invest, transportation infrastructure is a critical factor in the decision. That’s why the Senate Highway bill is so important, encouraging business investment, creating jobs, and easing traffic for commuters.”
More than 300 Ohioans—whose jobs are at risk if the Highway Bill is not passed—are at work on the I-71/670 interchange project, which will widen the highway by one lane in both directions to ease the heavy traffic flow. Brown was joined at today’s press conference by Butch Thomas, an out-of-work construction worker who could face a longer period of unemployment if these roadwork projects are delayed.
Currently, 137,000 cars and trucks drive through the I-71/670 interchange, with an average of two accidents each day. The expansion will realign I-670 East Bound so through traffic stays to the left and traffic to I-71 exits to the right. The project includes work on I-71 from Jack Gibbs Boulevard to Long Street. This includes 21 mainline, ramp and overhead bridges.
“Obviously MORPC is very supportive of a transportation reauthorization bill that provides funding for a multi-modal transportation system that is performance driven and outcome based,” Chester R. Jourdan, Jr., Executive Director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC). “We see these critical elements in the current Senate transportation bill. We also believe that this bill will help create jobs and allow our region to make the critical transportation investments needed for economic growth.”
At Yellow Brick Pizza, Brown stood with local business owners who outlined how the delay of the I-70/670 interchange and other critical highway construction project would affect business and continued development of central Ohio neighborhoods, like Old Towne East. Yellow Brick Pizza was awarded the 2011 Best of Columbus “Best New Restaurant,” but has seen a decline in business since the construction began. Yellow Brick Pizza’s owner, Faith Silver, reports that while other businesses are interested in investing in the Old Towne East neighborhood, some have expressed concerns over ongoing construction and traffic issues.
Brown also called on the House to reverse dangerous cuts to highway funding and to mass transit in its version of the bill. The House bill would provide Ohio with $94 million less in highway funds than the Senate version. The House bill also reverses a policy in place since the Reagan administration that sets aside funding for mass transit project, essentially slashing $160 million in funds for Ohio transit agencies. The policy change has been met with opposition from Republicans and Democrats in the House, who are working to restore funds for mass transit. The House bill would also result in more than $94 million less for other Ohio transportation projects than the Senate version of the bill next fiscal year. The Akron Beacon Journal recently described the House legislation as a “wreck of a bill.”
Specifically, the Senate Highway Bill:
- Consolidates federal programs to provide greater efficiency and flexibility to states;
- Expands financing programs, like the Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (TIFIA), that use federal funding to leverage private investments in transportation;
- Establishes performance measurements that emphasize an outcome-based approach to improve results and accountability; and
- Improves flexibility for transit systems to use capital funds for operating assistance.