CLEVELAND, OH — Cuyahoga County is home to 87 “structurally deficient” bridges, second most in Ohio. With a looming deadline to pass critical highway funding fast approaching, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for a bipartisan approach to fixing America’s highways and bridges by passing a long-term transportation bill. Unless the federal transportation bill is reauthorized, critical road and bridge projects in Northeast Ohio could be delayed and hundreds of construction jobs will be at risk.
“Infrastructure investments helped attract the workers, business, and investments that made America a superpower,” Brown said. “We built the best infrastructure in the world, but have watched it crumble for decades. That’s why a long-term investment in our nation’s infrastructure is vital to strengthening our nation’s economic competitiveness and ensuring that thousands of hardworking Ohioans continue to rebuild our bridges and roads.”
According to the Federal Highway Administration, Ohio has more than 2,200 “structurally deficient” bridges, including 87 just in Cuyahoga County. These bridges—located in all 88 Ohio counties—depend on funding from the highway bill for critical improvements and upgrades. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), if the projected shortfall is not fixed soon, by August, DOT will be forced to slow down payments to the Ohio DOT ahead of the September 30, 2014 deadline for extending the current law.
In 2012, Congress passed MAP-21, a two-year extension and update of the highway bill that included a number of reforms intended to speed up construction while funding highway programs at previously authorized levels, roughly $50 billion per year. Ohio receives nearly $1.5 billion from the Highway Trust Fund every year. If the federal contribution to states only kept pace with gas tax revenue, Ohio would experience an annual 30 percent reduction—worth $420 million—in contributions from DOT. Without reauthorization, the more than 109,000 Ohio jobs tied to building and maintaining Ohio’s transportation infrastructure are in jeopardy.
Earlier this year, Transportation for America—a leading transportation think tank—released a report detailing the amount of federal dollars each state and metro area will be forced to forgo if action is not taken. In Ohio, nearly 59 percent of its capital budget for transportation projects comes from federal highway dollars. Without these critical federal resources, state and local governments face critical shortfalls in addressing improvement projects and structural upgrades to local bridges and roads.
Today, Brown visited the West 73rd Street construction site. The $21.1 million project to connect Cleveland’s west side neighborhoods with the Lakeshore Boulevard is underway, but could experience delays if the Highway Trust Fund becomes insolvent. Joining Brown to call for immediate action was George Palko, the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Great Lakes Construction Company; and Grace Gallucci, the Executive Director of Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NEOACA). Also Joining Brown was Tim McCarthy, the Business Manager of Iron Workers Local 17. McCarthy spoke for the hundreds of workers who could lose jobs if the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money.
Brown has been an outspoken advocate for increased domestic investment in our nation’s infrastructure. In 2011, Brown announced new legislation that would create a National Infrastructure Bank to provide loans and loan guarantees for critical infrastructure projects of national importance that increase economic competitiveness, bolster exports, and encourage investment. The bank would also allow federal financing to be coupled with other sources of private debt and private equity to fund these projects. This would serve as an added incentive for private sector participation in project financing. Every $5 billion in infrastructure investments leverages an estimated $50 billion.