Local mayors and county officials are putting their weight behind a proposed 18-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike. The proposal is part of the transportation budget working its way through the Ohio General Assembly.
The transportation budget determines funding for maintenance of roads and bridges over the next two years, and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine is pushing to charge more at the pump to pay for the infrastructure.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, a Democrat, says the Central Ohio Mayors and City Managers Association unanimously support the idea.
"Gov. DeWine inherited a $1 billion shortfall in infrastructure funding," Ginther says. "We applaud his willingness to tackle this tough issue and stand together today to offer bipartisan regional support."
The association includes local leaders from Columbus and neighboring cities like Grandview and Bexley. The mayors of both cities were on hand to voice their support for the governor's plan.
Budget drafters expect the increase to bring in about $1.2 billion in revenue, nearly $300 million of which will be divvied up among local governments.
In Columbus, Ginther says gas tax dollars have funded $37 million worth of road resurfacing over three years, but that the money coming in can’t keep up with demands.
Grandview Mayor Ray DeGraw agrees, explaining new problems spring up as fast as they can address the old ones.
"We have a very, very tough climate on roads and it shows,” DeGraw says. “We continue as a city, as a county, as a state to fight an uphill battle against the deterioration of our road system, and it seems like we can never spend enough."
Franklin County Engineer Cornell Robertson notes almost 50 of the county’s 357 bridges are more than a century old, and 13 are rated "poor."
"It is better to maintain our roadway infrastructure as we go, instead of paying for replacement after failure,” Robertson says. “It's similar to maintaining our vehicles and replacing the oil often as opposed to of waiting for the engine to lock up. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
But Robertson says that’s difficult to do as constructions costs keep rising. He points to the intersection of Cleveland and Innis roads, the Harrisburg-Georgesville Road Bridge over Darby Creek, and Alum Creek Drive Bridge over Big Walnut Creek as three projects in need of funding.