William Murdock Highlights the Need for Transportation Funding to Governor’s Advisory Group

February 20, 2019

An advisory committee formed by Gov. Mike DeWine in response to a funding shortfall for road projects recently heard from Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) Executive Director William Murdock.

MORPC Executive Director William Murdock testifying to the Governor's Advisory Committee on Transportation

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is currently facing a fiscal cliff because of a lack of revenue and too much borrowing – a decrease due in large part to the expiration of Ohio’s Turnpike Bond program. That means no money remains for major new road construction projects, such as certain phases of the I-71/I-70 interchange Downtown.

The governor’s advisory committee was tasked with offering recommendations on how to get out of the financial crunch as DeWine proposes his two-year state transportation budget.

Murdock provided testimony on behalf of the Ohio Association of Regional Councils as well as MORPC. He highlighted the unmet need for transportation funding requests, including the $25.8 million in federal funding MORPC currently has available and the $180 million in requests it cannot fund. The gap in funded projects represents a range of deferred maintenance, needed expansion, and upgrades to critical economic development and safety.

Murdock also highlighted the 43 priority projects that were recently included as part of the Competitive Advantage Projects, as well as improvements needed to increase safety, reduce congestion, and improve air quality.

“Ohio is poised to be leader in innovative and connected technologies with DriveOhio, Smart Columbus, Ohio’s 33 Smart Mobility Corridor, and so many local efforts. But we can’t get to the future of transportation if we can’t fund the basic for our roads and bridges.”
MORPC Executive Director William Murdock

A group of rural, suburban, and urban community leaders convened by MORPC met several times last year to put together a working document of state policy recommendations that address current transportation maintenance needs and plans for future mobility needs. These recommendations were conveyed in the testimony.

The governor’s advisory committee ultimately recommended an increase in Ohio’s motor fuel tax – often referred to as a user fee that consumers pay when refueling their vehicles at the pump. The state’s 28-cents-per-gallon was last increased in 2005, but a dollar from 2003 is now worth just 58 cents because of inflation. The committee’s report notes other funding mechanisms that were discussed, although none of them were ultimately recommended.

With the state transportation budget bill, House Bill 62, now introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives, Governor DeWine has proposed an increase of 18 cents per gallon in the motor fuel user fee that would begin July 1 and be indexed to increase annually by the rate of inflation so that its buying power would not be lost. MORPC is encouraged by the leadership Gov. DeWine and ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks have shown on the funding issue.

The motor fuel fee increase is seen by many as the most convenient way to raise money, because the fee is already in place. Ensuring Ohio can make up the shortfall for projects such as highways and bridges also could also free up funding for other important priorities, such as public transit – another priority of MORPC’s.

MORPC will continue to advocate on a variety of other legislative recommendations to meet the unmet need of transportation dollars. William Murdock’s testimony to the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Transportation can be read here.

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