I love the quotes from the Licking County Commissioner. He sounds like a proud papa now that he’s secured his extra lanes, and sprawling subdivisions at the expense of Franklin County. It will only be a matter of time before these lanes start to fill up with additional commuters who will no doubt be complaining about traffic, their long commute to downtown, and high gas prices.
Money for Rt. 161 won’t run out
Commuter-friendly widening nears halfway as future funding for new roads dwindles
Sunday, August 31, 2008 3:24 AM
By Tim Doulin
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Despite a tough economy and belt-tightening among state transportation projects, the Rt. 161 widening eventually will reach Granville in Licking County, officials said.
“As a commissioner, I’m pleased we were sort of able to get this in under the wire before the economy and ODOT’s available funding for construction just started to fade away,” Commissioner Tim Bubb said.
Rt. 161 is a primary feeder for Licking County residents who work in Columbus or Franklin County. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission says about 23,700 Licking County residents commute daily on Rt. 161 and other roads.
The project — current cost $161 million — is funded with a combination of state and federal money. With ODOT and the federal highway trust fund experiencing funding problems, that’s important.
Projects in the current state budget through next year are set, according to ODOT. But rising construction costs and flat revenue from the state gasoline tax leave questions about whether there will be enough money for many new projects after that.
ODOT has adopted a “fix-it-first” policy in which the state first maintains and operates existing roads before putting money into new projects.
“I would hate to ever give the impression that there would be no new construction in future years,” said Scott Varner, ODOT spokesman. “But it could be limited if some of our financial issues aren’t resolved.” ODOT has spent $39.8 million to acquire 137 properties for the Rt. 161 project. The state is still in court on seven other pieces of property.
Although the wider road could bring residential and commercial development to the corridor, less traffic congestion remains the No. 1 benefit for local residents.
That’s right folks. ODOT found a way to justify spending $161 million so that 23,700 Licking County residents can shave a couple minutes off of their commutes. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go beat my head against a wall for a few minutes.
It’s been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I think our friends at ODOT may have earned themselves a padded room with this one.