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Northeast Ohio to State DOT: Road Expansions Getting Out of Hand

11:42 AM EST on January 12, 2016

If you could point to one aspect of American transportation policy that's more disastrous than all the others, expanding highways and roads to the point of absurdity is probably it.

I-90 in northeast Ohio. Photo: GreenCityBlueLake

In northeast Ohio, cities like Cleveland and Akron were hollowed out by highway building, but the state DOT still privileges road expansion instead of maintenance or investment in transit, biking, and walking. At a recent event, regional transportation leaders asked the state to shift its priorities, reports Marc Lefkowitz at GreenCityBlueLake:

Even though Northeast Ohio’s transportation agency, NOACA spends only 7% of its budget building new roads, Executive Director, Grace Gallucci says, make no mistake; the region is still expanding its roads and highways.

"There’s two billion dollars of transportation funding in Ohio," Gallucci offered at the City Club last week. "We're kidding ourselves if we think capacity isn't being increased."

It is unsustainable, says Gallucci, to maintain the current road system while expanding it further. Slow population growth and lower density development has contributed to an estimated $1.8 billion backlog of road work in the five-county area that NOACA serves.

"There has to be a way that older, slow-growth regions like ours fund road maintenance," Gallucci said. "If I want to go ask for an Opportunity Corridor or $300 million for new capacity, I can. But, if I want $300 million to maintain what we have, there is nowhere I can go."

Gallucci has joined with other heads of metropolitan planning organizations, which are local intermediaries that help direct federal transportation funding, in asking state lawmakers and the Ohio Department of Transportation to carve out a portion of the biggest source of federal funds, the Surface Transportation Program (STP), for maintenance purposes.

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network today: The Dallas Morning News Transportation Blog reports that a downtown highway segment might get widened. And Greater Greater Washington plugs the new transit project tracker developed by Yonah Freemark and Steven Vance.

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