Preserving Existing Infrastructure

Preserving Existing Infrastructure

 The NOACA region has public infrastructure assets (e.g. roads, bridges, transit investments, water and sewer system) valued in the billions of dollars The cost of running this infrastructure system will cost billions of dollars over the next thirty years and could easily become cost prohibitive for the future residents in the region. At the same time, new infrastructure is being built without a growth in the overall population to support it.

How, then, can we support the existing infrastructure to make sure that future residents will be able to use it? What are the options that both the public and politicians might support?

Joining us for this online forum are:

Leslie Farley, ODOT District Planning Engineer

Bonnie Teeuwin, Cuyahoga County Public Works Director

Maribeth Feke, Greater Cleveland RTA

Chase Ritenauer, Mayor of Lorain

Conversation Starter

How can we support the existing infrastructure to make sure that future residents will be able to use it? What are the options that both the public and politicians might support?

Moderators (1)

Participants (14) See All

What do you think?

Anonymous
on 2017-07-24T04:43:36+00:00
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Recent Activity

Eve Sandberg
on May 23, 2014
"I think we have to think of infrastructure funding in the long term. We cannot in the short term..."
Eve Sandberg
on May 22, 2014
"But I think the money is tight for local communities to find the matching funds that are usually..."
Lawrence Hall
on May 20, 2014
"Jason - good point on the subjective/objective idea.  It reminds me of how GDP has sort of become..."
Jason Segedy
on May 20, 2014
"Lawrence, these are fantastic points that you raise. It is all about balance, and I think that in..."
Lawrence Hall
on May 19, 2014
"As I mentioned earlier, I still think you're creating a false balance.  I don't know that people..."
Grace Gallucci
on May 16, 2014
"Lots of great comments. We definitely have challenges surrounding transportation issues,..."
Jason Segedy
on May 16, 2014
"The fuel tax is no longer a user fee. Congress has infused the Highway Trust Fund with an..."
maribeth  feke
on May 16, 2014
"Condition is probably more important that age. Some infrastructure lasts longer than others. Age..."
Bill Davis
on May 16, 2014
"Discussions that become an us against them, i.e. a preserve existing infrastructure versus..."
Jason Segedy
on May 16, 2014
"Great point about technology, Randy. It's a good example of using the infrastructure that we..."
Randy  Cole
on May 16, 2014
"Sorry about the extra characters in the post, I guess I just learned to post as plain text and..."
Randy  Cole
on May 16, 2014
"Bill, I love the nature of the discussion. Land use planning, maintain Vs. build are all..."
Lawrence Hall
on May 16, 2014
""Recognizing that it could be a little of both" strikes me as an attempt at false balance.  As..."
Bill Davis
on May 16, 2014
"By and large the overall age of infrastructure decreases as one moves away from central cities. ..."
Bonita  Teeuwen
on May 16, 2014
"  Mr. Sleasman,   I disagree that there is “plenty of money” for our improvements...."
maribeth  feke
on May 16, 2014
"It is all about prioritization.  We need to rank the infrastructure improvements by condition and..."
Jeffrey Sleasman
on May 15, 2014
"There's clearly plenty of money—we keep throwing tens of millions of dollars at projects to widen..."
J.P. Graulty
on May 15, 2014
"Projects like the Opportunity Corridor are openly flouting the fix-it-first policy. The area..."
Jane  Dwyre
on May 15, 2014
"No matter what projects NOACA decides to pursue, please explore all options in the best interest..."
maribeth  feke
on May 15, 2014
"There is not enough money to preserve. Nobody wants to resurface an old road when they can have a..."
Bill Davis
on May 15, 2014
"Ms. Feke, It is unlikely that there will be a ban on new road building or expansion.  What..."
Bill Davis
on May 15, 2014
"A question for all of our panelists: The common debate as already demonstrated in the posts..."
Bill Davis
on May 15, 2014
"Ms. Schmitt, Many local communities would argue that insufficient funding is responsible for..."
maribeth  feke
on May 15, 2014
"I think we are hardpressed to maintain the infrastructure already in place.  Our existing roads..."
Bill Davis
on May 15, 2014
"Mr. Singh, ODOT would likely disagree with your characterization.  Although it does build new..."
Bill Davis
on May 15, 2014
"Ms. Teeuwen, The County's efforts to address funding shortfalls by providing match for local..."
Bill Davis
on May 15, 2014
"Good Morning, Bill here, to aid in moderating the discussion today.  It looks like there are..."
Bonita  Teeuwen
on May 15, 2014
"Maintaining our current infrastructure is very challenging.  Local communities are finding it..."
Akshai Singh
on May 13, 2014
"The Ohio Department of Transportation already has a 'fix-it first' policy as requirement to..."
Peet McCain
on May 12, 2014
"Paying for things is always an early concern, so let's start with that. Infrastructure is a big..."
Grace Gallucci
on May 16, 2014 - 10:02 pm

Lots of great comments. We definitely have challenges surrounding transportation issues, including funding.  The biggest challenge, however, is to move beyond words and into action. There is much good work already being done. But there is so much more to do.  And in this regard, we must be relentless in our pursuit of a state of good repair for our transportation infrastructure. We must use objective data driven critera to direct the use of limited resources, and then continually measure and monitor our performance against the achievement of this goal. We need to hold ourseves accountable. The region's future depends on it.

 
maribeth  feke
on May 16, 2014 - 11:52 am

Condition is probably more important that age. Some infrastructure lasts longer than others. Age should be one factor in the matrix or ranking done to prioritize larger infrasture investments for the region. 

 
Bill Davis
From the Moderator: Bill Davis
on May 16, 2014 - 11:50 am

Discussions that become an us against them, i.e. a preserve existing infrastructure versus building new infrastructure, seldom result in useful conclusions.  I don't believe it is realistic or practical to believe that local governments or their citizens are going to forego all new construction.  As Ms. Teeuwen describes succinctly below, the facts indicate that there are insufficient funds for the job at hand regardless of how funds are allocated.  Canceling a new capacity project or two could be considered by some a victory, but it won't actually change the bottom line.  The questions remain how do we prioritize existing infrastructure for maintenance and how do we generate sufficient funding to accomplish the needed work?

 

Responses(3)

Lawrence Hall
on May 19, 2014

As I mentioned earlier, I still think you're creating a false balance.  I don't know that people are advocating to forego all new construction, just the type of projects that spend $100 million per mile.  Canceling projects like this absolutely will change the bottom line.

I would like to know more about how we currently prioritize; could someone provide more info?  We have the "fix it first" policy, but what does that mean and how is it enforced?  What is the criteria for when a new road is built? And so on.

You ask about the age of the roadway in another comment.  That may be one useful data point for prioritization, but certainly not the only one (I realize you didn't suggest it should be).  A new road that gets 50,000 vehicles a day will likely need repaired more often than a 40 year old road that gets 6,000.  This issue of volume should be a primary determinant - how many vehicles per day, and what the peak flow is.

Further, what is the purpose of the proposed project?  This gets somewhat subjective as a decision criteria, but it can't be ignored.  We spend very large sums making the first and last mile a little easier for cars, and I'm not sure there's much benefit to this.  Congestion can be aggravating, or it can be a sign of an economically productive place where people want to be.  Congestion on an interstate is bad; congestion in a central business district should be desired, and money can be prioritized in those places to complete streets and mass transit to alleviate congestion, not to increasing road capacity (ie more lanes).

As for generating this revenue in the first place - the surrounding property should largely, if not totally, be able to provide for maintenance.  Chuck Marohn, an engineer by trade, writes at www.strongtowns.org, and has coined the term "stroad" to represent economically unproductive design.  A "street" is an economically vibrant, multi-modal destination with speed limits 25 or less.  A "road" is a higher speed design that allows people to easily travel to and from the streets.

We have too many hybrid stroads - the 4 to 6 wide lanes, 35-50mph ones that are incredibly expensive to build and maintain, with speed limits and design totally inhospitable to walking, cycling, or bus stops, yet too slow (usually because they have several intersections) to efficiently move people.  The ratio of tax-generating frontage to square footage of pavement is way too low as it is, and gets even worse when you consider that each of these properties needs to have a large parking lot.  The government can't possibly collect enough revenues from these properties to maintain the surrounding infrastructure, so it's forced to rely on state or federal funding or else divert money from other local investments.  Joe Minicozzi is an AICP planner who writes about this at http://urban-three.com/ and other sites, showing that dense, mixed-use areas (which often allow for multi-modal transportation) generate far more money than do the isolated commercial/retail strip malls, Wal-Marts, etc.

Sorry for the length, hopefully it doesn't discourage everyone from reading.

 
Jason Segedy
on May 20, 2014

Lawrence, these are fantastic points that you raise. It is all about balance, and I think that in our region the focus has been skewed disproportionately in favor of expanding our highway capacity for a very long time - which is somewhat remarkable given the fact that in our 12-county Northeast Ohio area we have lost 7% of our population since 1970.

Alex Ihnen at nextSTL recently wrote about this topic, stating that in St. Louis, more roads and bigger roads have always been the status quo solution, even as the city has lost 2/3 of its peak population:

http://nextstl.com/2014/04/dot-plans-city/

Both Alex Ihnen and Charles Marohn (as you referenced) quite persuasively discuss the way that roadway expansion projects have often worked at cross-purposes with other urban development goals, such as cost-effective and competitive public transportation service; revitalization of urban neighborhoods; retention of jobs, retail, and other services in the urban core; and perhaps, most of all, prudent use of public funds in a contracting fiscal environment. Highway expansions are certainly not the only reason that our region's jobs and population have spread out over an ever larger footprint, leading to greater taxpayer expense (for infrastructure) and more inequality (of opportunity), but they are not an insignificant factor. Significant expenditure on highway expansion projects is also a key factor in the fiscal crises at both the federal and state level. Are some of these projects necessary? Absolutely. But we are far too quick as a society to give these projects the green light.

You also raise the issue of opportunity cost - when we spend a lot of money to expand our roadway infrastructure (in a shrinking region with relatively little congestion) - what else could be done with those taxpayer dollars?

Finally, I like your point about subjectivity. I would argue that subjectivity is not a dirty word and that it is an inescapable reality of decision-making. It is worth considering that all "objective" criteria (e.g. travel time saved, cost/benefit ratio, projected economic impact) are subjectively chosen. All of these supposedly objective criteria still reflect our subjective value judgments about what is important. This doesn't by any means invalidate them, but it should remind us that the cost-effectiveness of a project is predicated upon subjective value judgments of what "effectiveness" means. Is saving a couple of minutes of travel time during rush hour more "effective" than discouraging longer commutes and further outmigration of housing and jobs? It's in the eye of the beholder, and it is a question that is certainly worth debating, especially as the Highway Trust Fund is insolvent, and the U.S. is $17 trillion in debt.

 
Lawrence Hall
on May 20, 2014

Jason - good point on the subjective/objective idea.  It reminds me of how GDP has sort of become our political holy grail.  The data that is easiest to collect ends up holding disproportionate influence simply because it's easy to collect, even if it's not measuring what many people would consider the most important criteria.

Bill & others - I left safety out of my original post, but it should obviously be a big concern in prioritization, for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.  A lack of safety is usually indicative of a whole host of other problems (stroads are the most unsafe roads we have), which is why I didn't mention it.

This is a few years old but even more valid today than it was then: http://www.pps.org/blog/wider-straighter-faster-roads-arent-always-safer/.  Several studies show that wider lanes and faster speeds, generally thought to be bad for pedestrians but good for motorists, turn out to be dangerous for motorists as well. 

And lucky for us, the same things that make roads safer for motorists tend to also make them safer for pedestrians and cyclists, which in turn makes the businesses in the area more prosperous and the surrounding community a more desirable place to live.  So prioritizing safety when we allocate funds can kill several birds with one stone.

 
Expand This Thread
Bill Davis
From the Moderator: Bill Davis
on May 16, 2014 - 10:07 am

By and large the overall age of infrastructure decreases as one moves away from central cities.  The amount of traffic the infrastructure experiences is also often reduced as one moves further out.  How should age of infrastructure and use be considered when allocating existing resources to infrastructure maintenance?

Bill

 
maribeth  feke
on May 16, 2014 - 8:04 am

It is all about prioritization.  We need to rank the infrastructure improvements by condition and by how many people use or potentially use it. It needs to be on a regional basis like NOACA does on its projects.

 
Jeffrey Sleasman
on May 15, 2014 - 5:44 pm

There's clearly plenty of money—we keep throwing tens of millions of dollars at projects to widen highways and hundreds of millions to build new expressways like the Opportunity Corridor, as folks have mentioned. Instead, we could use that money to put existing urban roads on diets, making legacy neighborhoods more liveable and walkable. That would both reduce wear and tear on existing roadways and lower the maintenance bill by having less pavement to maintain. I don't know anyone who would complain about having fewer potholes or having them fixed faster. 

 

If more revenue is needed, the best thing to do would be to raise the gas tax or create more user fees. That would not only be fair, since it would fall mainly on the folks who most use the infrastructure we're maintaining, but it would also entice people to fill-in legacy neighborhoods—accelerating the prices I described above. 

 

Responses(3)

Bonita  Teeuwen
on May 16, 2014

 

Mr. Sleasman,

 

I disagree that there is “plenty of money” for our improvements.  Currently, the Federal Highway Administration estimates that $170 billion in capital investment would be needed on an annual basis to significantly improve conditions and performance.  One in nine of the nation’s bridges are rated as structurally deficient, while the average age of the nation’s 607,380 bridges is currently 42 years. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that to eliminate the nation’s bridge deficient backlog by 2028, we would need to invest $20.5 billion annually, while only $12.8 billion is being spent currently. 

 

It is also true that new and widen roadways bring economic development to those areas.  However, I do believe we should look at the current distribution in funds between fixing existing roadways compared to adding or widening roadways.  This is a challenge since the federal regulations require you to fix capacity issues if something other than a resurfacing is proposed.  These regulations need to be reviewed on a federal level.

 

Your comment about the increase in user tax or fuel tax is appreciated.  The fuel tax is a flat tax that has not been increased since the 90’s.  This means that the tax has not increased due to inflation.  Therefore, since labor and material costs have increased, we essential have less money every year. In addition, fuel consumption has decreased or levels off, also affecting our revenue level.

 

I agree and support the need for more walkable and bike friendly communities.  But some, not me, might argue that fuel tax is a user fee and walkers and bikers don’t pay their fair share.  Therefore we should not utilize fuel tax for this purpose. Your point on less wear and tear as well as reduced vehicles on the roadway is true. I can only hope that those who oppose utilizing fuel tax can see the benefit to the region and not stay focused on their own specific desires.

 

 
Jason Segedy
on May 16, 2014

The fuel tax is no longer a user fee. Congress has infused the Highway Trust Fund with an estimated $55 billion in general revenue funds (when the smoke clears - borrowed from places like China) since the late 2000s. Our roads no longer pay for themselves - most Americans would be surprised to learn that the Chinese are paying for our roads now.

In the recent congressional debate on the pending transportation bill, Senator Hatch (a smart and savvy man, to be sure) tried to imply that spending on bike and pedestrian infrastructure is somehow linked to the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund. The assertion is laughable. The reason that we are broke is attributable to two things: 1) federal transportation revenues not keeping up with expenditures; and 2) our never-ending attempt to build our way out of traffic congestion by spending tens of billions each year on roadway expansion projects.

It's not 1956 anymore. We need to start doing things differently: 

http://www.amatsplanning.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Directors-Editorial-on-Federal-Gas-Tax.pdf

 
Eve Sandberg
on May 22, 2014

But I think the money is tight for local communities to find the matching funds that are usually required to secure federal or state money. It would take political will to find ways in current budgets to make choices in favor of infrastructure and transportation, both of which if it is in ill repair will not attract new businesses. To support such actions, leaders, including political leaders need to educate the public on the links between preserving infrastructure and improved economic conditions. They can't simply come at citizens a few weeks before a levy.

 
Expand This Thread
J.P. Graulty
on May 15, 2014 - 4:51 pm

Projects like the Opportunity Corridor are openly flouting the fix-it-first policy. The area through which this road would be constructed is littered with transportation maintenance needs for cars, pedestrians, and users of transit already. A single dollar spent on the Opportunity Corridor before these other needs are addressed is a violation of the fix-it-first policy.

Citizens should call on their state and local leaders to adhere to this common-sense policy.

 
Jane  Dwyre
on May 15, 2014 - 12:47 pm

No matter what projects NOACA decides to pursue, please explore all options in the best interest of the environment. We all know climate change is incredibly pressing. NOACA is in a powerful position - with the potential to reduce our impact and create a world that better and inhabitable in the future.

As we make these significant decisions we must make sure our path is as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible. Even if that means chosing an option more expensive in the short-term. The long-term benefits are so significant they far surpass any short-term burdens.

 
maribeth  feke
on May 15, 2014 - 11:05 am

There is not enough money to preserve. Nobody wants to resurface an old road when they can have a nice new one.  At RTA, the newly construction stations are constantly getting attention but if the track or bridge the train runs through to the station is bad or fails, what's the point.  RTA is trying to bring its old facilities into a state of good repair but its expensive.  Redoing old infrastructure is more expensive and receives less positive attention that new yet its vital to the integrity of the entire system.

 
Bill Davis
From the Moderator: Bill Davis
on May 15, 2014 - 10:31 am

A question for all of our panelists:

The common debate as already demonstrated in the posts below is whether there are enough revenues to maintain infrastructure but those revenues are being misallocated or whether there are insufficient revenues to accomplish the task at hand.  Recognizing that it could be a little of both, what are your thoughts on the funding impasse and how it could be best corrected?

Bill

 

Responses(4)

Lawrence Hall
on May 16, 2014

"Recognizing that it could be a little of both" strikes me as an attempt at false balance.  As mentioned by someone else, it's hard to look at something like $300M for the so-called Opportunity Corridor and think our problem is anything other than resource misallocation.  Another example near me is around $55M to expand Center Ridge Rd in North Ridgeville from 3 to 5 lanes over a few mile stretch.  As the saying goes, the plural of anectode isn't data, but there are literally dozens of projects like this throughout the region where money is being, at best, questionably spent.  I'm sure more roads, and more road miles, are maintained than created, but the cost of creation is so much higher.

So what to do?  Stop doing what we're doing is Step 1.  To again use the North Ridgeville example, the City is recovering from unprecendented flooding this week.  I'm sure most if not all residents would much rather see money going towards flood control than cutting a minute or two off of a handful of peoples commutes (assuming the widening would even accomplish this).  Get feedback from residents.  Ask how they feel money can best be allocated.  Most importantly, realize that infrastructure development is not synonymous with economic development.

Does the State and Federal money have strings attached that dictate it must be used in certain ways?  I imagine there are some.  But we're not obligated to take their money if we think the way they're forcing us to spend it will result in greater costs than benefits.

Other than that change in mindset, the usual suspects are a good place to start to correct the funding impasse - user fees, congestion pricing, prioritizing transit, making it easier to walk/bike, in some cases triage, stop building interchanges on our interstates that cost millions and necessitate millions more in surrounding infrastructure, zoning changes that allow for more dense land use, elimination of parking minimums.

These aren't hard concepts.  They just take long term thinking, particularly from our politicians focused on headlines.

 
Randy  Cole
on May 16, 2014

Bill,

I love the nature of the discussion. Land use planning, maintain Vs. build are all important factors in infrastructure spending decisions. I'd like to see some thoughts on Technology- there is a lot of research that technology investments can add significant capacity and safety without additional pavement. It's not science fiction anymore.

I would also like add some big picture perspective about how much resource is dedicated by Federal, State and Local resources to transportation infrastructure in Ohio. The bullets below detail most of the ways state gas tax and state share of federal funds are distributed to local governments.

In addition, the state sends about $300 million in Motor Vehicle license revenue to local governments. To be clear- these are not GRANTS, but deposits made in local government accounts every month via direct deposit. In total, the two sources provide almost a Billion dollars BEFORE the grant and loan programs detailed below.

Local governments have the option of adding $5 to $15 on top of the state MV license fee for their own use. That provides about  $160 million in revenue. Many people are surprised to know that there are over 1,800 property tax levies for local roads and bridges that generates about $200 million in revenue. In addition, manhy cities and counties designate sales tax or income tax specifically for infrastructure, but no one has been able to provide me with a statewide total. Local governments also have the option of using general revenues for infrastructure as well. 

So- I have asked many people to identify what we sepnd each year on transportation infrastructure, but I have not been able to get a clear estimate, but from all of these identified sources- conservatively it's over $2.6 Billion or roughly $226 per capita. 

I will laso upload a fact sheet from ODOT that includes more detail about these programs and contacts if someone ewants to follow up with a program manager for more information.

Happy Friday!

All figures are FY14 Budgeted unless otherwise noted

· Direct Distributions of State Motor Fuel Tax Available to Local Gov for Roadway Projects- $ 550 million

Counties – $ 200 million, Townships –$ 117 million, Municipalities - $233 million

· Other State agencies who distribute $ for local projects

       o Development Services Agency (ODSA):  Roadwork Development                     (629) Fund- $15 million per year

       o Public Works Commission:  Local Transportation Improvement                         Program currently provides approximately $ 59 million in gasoline tax                receipts annually (the equivalent of one cent).

       o Department of Transportation:  Transportation Improvement                           Districts (TID) $3.5 million per year.

· Other State Funding Sources:

       o Public Works Commission:  State Capital Improvement Program                       (SCIP) Approximately $150 million per year

       o Public Works Commission:  Revolving Loan Program $30 - $35 million            per year in below market rate loans

       o Ohio Rail Development Commission (Revolving Loan Fund) -                     $2  million              

       o ODOT:  State Infrastructure Bank (SIB) Funds available to Loan - $ 40            million, Bond capacity available  - $ 119 million

       o ODOT:  Jobs and Commerce - $5 million

· Federal $: ODOT Local Programs: 

       o MPO & Large City - $ 188 million

       o County Engineers Association - $ 63 million: County Surface,  County             Highway Safety, County Local Bridge

       o Safety - $ 100 million

       o Small City - $ 9 million

       o Municipal Bridge - $ 4 million

       o Enhancements - $ 11million

       o Safe Routes to Schools - $ 4 million

       o ODOT:  Transportation Review Advisory Council – $120 million Major            new capacity projects are those which cost ODOT more than $5 million and            does one or more of the following: increase mobility, provide connectivity,            increase the accessibility of a region for economic development, increase the          capacity of a transportation facility, or reduce congestion.

       o District Bridge Program - $ 240 million Program provides funding for                preservation and replacement of existing state owned structures in the 12              ODOT districts throughout Ohio.

       o District Pavement Preservation –  $ 501 million (includes $29  million              for Urban Paving)

       o ODOT:  Urban Paving - $ 29 million This program provides funds for                  eligible surface treatment and resurfacing projects on state and U.S. Routes          within municipal corporations.

       o ODOT:  Major Bridge - $ 78 million Funding for the rehabilitation or                  replacement of 175 structures carrying a state, U.S. or Interstate route                which meet the major bridge criteria.

       o ODOT:  Major Rehab - $ 180 million- Major reconstruction of priority                system pavements statewide.

 
Randy  Cole
on May 16, 2014

Sorry about the extra characters in the post, I guess I just learned to post as plain text and not to copy and paste from word.

 
Jason Segedy
on May 16, 2014

Great point about technology, Randy. It's a good example of using the infrastructure that we already have more effectively, rather than solving every problem with more bricks and mortar.

On a similar note, I would add that land use planning and urban design (at the local government level and at the private sector level) are major factors that can influence the need (or the perceived need) to expand roadway capacity. 

There is often an artificial false choice that crops up in these discussions (live totally car-free or drive everywhere for everything), when in reality, better local and private sector decisions on how we build our communities, our neighborhoods, our office parks, and our shopping districts, would enable many people to walk, bike, ride the bus, or drive their car shorter distances, for trips that they have to drive longer distances for right now.

So a big part of this discussion isn't simply transportation viewed in a vacuum, but transportation and how it influences (and is influenced by) other public and private sector decisions in the realm of economic development and land use.

In my opinion, our society (nationally and locally) is not making nearly as efficient use of its precious transportation tax dollars as it could, or as it should. We can't pave our way out of every traffic congestion problem (or perceived traffic congestion problem). It's a bad idea from a social (inequality); environmental (air pollution, water pollution from stormwater runoff); and economic (we are going broke) perspective. We have to lose the mindset that more pavement is the answer to all of our transportation problems. This is something that we can change at the local and state level right now, whether our leaders in Washington, D.C. decide to raise the gas tax or not. 

We need to prioritize maintaining the roads that we have, rather than building new ones; especially in a shrinking region like ours, where we are spending ever more transportation dollars (maintaining underutilized roads in the city, and expanding roads in the suburbs) for ever fewer people. In the short term, we should be investing in relatively inexpensive alternatives to driving, such as improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and improved public transit service. 

In the long term, we should reform our entire system of transportation funding (federal, state, local) to make the highest and best use of tax dollars, by continuing to focus on road maintenance, transportation alternatives, and better land use and urban design. But that will entail taking a long, hard look at our transportation priorities and making a philosophical sea change. Sadly, throwing more money at the current system is easier politically than taking the time and effort to actually reform it. But reality will eventually force our hand, and the longer that we wait to reform it, the more painful the transition to a new way of doing things will be.

 

 
Expand This Thread
maribeth  feke
on May 15, 2014 - 10:23 am

I think we are hardpressed to maintain the infrastructure already in place.  Our existing roads and bridges are failing. There is not enough money to keep them in a state of good repair. Billions are needed to just get the roads, etc up to average condition. Yet new roads and expansions are happening all the time.

 

Responses(1)

Bill Davis
on May 15, 2014

Ms. Feke,

It is unlikely that there will be a ban on new road building or expansion.  What would be your best argument to local communities considering expanding their infrastructure to convince them to opt for focusing on existing infrastructure and/or expanding transit instead?

Bill

 
Expand This Thread
Bill Davis
From the Moderator: Bill Davis
on May 15, 2014 - 10:17 am

Good Morning,

Bill here, to aid in moderating the discussion today.  It looks like there are already some posts, so I will begin with those.

 

Bill

 
Bonita  Teeuwen
on May 15, 2014 - 9:07 am

Maintaining our current infrastructure is very challenging.  Local communities are finding it more and more challenging to find the money and resources to maintain infrastructure that should be replaced because they have far exceeded its usable life.  Local revenues are down and cuts are being made to city personnel who usually maintain these systems.  In addition, Capital Improvements are cut when city budgets are limited.  That is why the County created a road resurfacing program that did not require a local financial obligation.  The county selected roadways with the worse PCRs in the county and worked with the communities to utilize the county’s license plate fee revenue on these projects.  We aggressively worked to reduce our internal operating cost to make more money available for Capital Projects. But there still is not enough money to fix our existing system.  While the cost of construction has gone up, the revenues we use to maintain this infrastructure have lessened

 

Responses(1)

Bill Davis
on May 15, 2014

Ms. Teeuwen,

The County's efforts to address funding shortfalls by providing match for local communities in need is very impressive.  Can you provide some idea of what the level of need is that the County has identified versus the available resources?

Bill

 
Expand This Thread
Akshai Singh
on May 13, 2014 - 1:27 pm

The Ohio Department of Transportation already has a 'fix-it first' policy as requirement to conduct system preservation prior to green-lighting new capital projects. There is no evidence that they follow this policy, and it is costing Northeast Ohio big time. There is plenty of funding available but it is all reserved for new, unnecessary, and highly expensive road capacity. For example, the Opportunity Corridor comes in at $331m or $100m/mile. Mayor Jackson and the City have consistently remarked that ODOT does not pay for local road maintenance, and everybody seems to recognize that 'fix-it first' is just words, not actual policy.

Again, ODOT's budget is PLENTY big enough to maintain a good state of repair, but the policy currently favors roadbuilders over residents.

 

Responses(1)

Bill Davis
on May 15, 2014

Mr. Singh,

ODOT would likely disagree with your characterization.  Although it does build new infrastructure it also invests heavily in preserving existing infrastructure.  The challenge for the state and locals is that revenues have not kept pace with inflation.  What means of raising additional revenues to cover the funding gap would you support?

Bill

 
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Peet McCain
on May 12, 2014 - 9:04 am

Paying for things is always an early concern, so let's start with that. Infrastructure is a big ticket item, so where is big money available?

Most Clevelanders are unaware of the millions of people who travel through Cleveland from the East Coast to Chicago or vice versa. The closest rest stop to the west of Cleveland is in Lorain. To the east, it is even farther, right at the border with Pennsylvania. That is approximately 120 miles.

I recommend that we build a rest stop/welcome center in Cleveland, with the income from it to benefit infrastructure improvements. Let me further say that if we build it, it should be Architecturally Significant! If it is anything less than inviting, interesting, and picture worthy, it would be a wasted effort and will not benefit the city/region in the long run, potentially even cause a net cost.  

But if built well, it will be a place where travellers will prefer to stop, shop and experience Cleveland. All of the money will come from primarily out of state travellers, incurring no taxes. Also, it will provide a public service while promoting a "best face foward' version of Cleveland, encouraging future visits that would not be drive throughs. 

I believe this would solve some other issues for the city as well. I would be happy to talk more about it.

Peet McCain

 
Angie Schmitt
on May 07, 2014 - 5:03 pm

Great question. My answer would be, for the love of God fix the streets, especially in poorer urban areas. We waste too much money widening roads in sprawling areas that provides relatively little economic return. That worsens inequality in our region. 

 

Responses(2)

Bill Davis
on May 15, 2014

Ms. Schmitt,

Many local communities would argue that insufficient funding is responsible for their inability to maintain streets at a state of good repair.  Note that the majority of local streets are not eligible for federal aid and must be maintained using the local share of the gas tax and other local revenues.  Do you have thoughts on how to significantly raise revenues in order to fill the funding gap?

Bill

 
Eve Sandberg
on May 23, 2014

I think we have to think of infrastructure funding in the long term. We cannot in the short term raise enough revenue to cover the costs. But in the long term solid infrastructure attracks businesses and creates economic development. When that happens, collecting taxes in the long term goes up. and success begets success. more businesses and residents want to locate here. So our commissioners may have to bite the bullet and  borrow to meet federal and state funding matches. I cannot see how local governments alone in the current economic climat can make a match. Even affluent communities have taken a tough economic hit with cuts from federal state and county governments and on top of that the Ohio administration has all but eliminated the estate taxes, small in % of the estate that went to local governments, but added up if there was an affluent community in your midst.

 
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