Many of the area's most traveled streets and highways are looking like parking lots these days. We all understand that the Ohio Department of Transportation and locally funded road work occurs in spring and summer.
However, a significant number of projects got all bunched up due to a very rainy spring that delayed the start of some and the state transportation budget that ran out of money in January. That prevented ODOT from executing contracts until new money became available July 1 with the new biennial budget.
We can't control the weather, but what were state officials thinking when they awarded grants, but could not award contracts for work? State officials actually placed part of the blame for the funding shortfall at the feet of those driving more fuel-efficient cars. Seriously?
Gov. Mike DeWine pleaded with the legislature to pass a gas tax increase as part of the new state transportation budget. He did not get the 18 cents he wanted, but he did get an increase of 10.5 cents per gallon after considerable wrangling in both the Ohio House and Senate. As a result, Ohio’s gas tax went up to 38.5 cents per gallon. A tax increase on diesel fuel was even higher, going from 19 cents to 47 cents per gallon.
What did taxpayers get for shelling out that extra cash?
Delays. Long ones. All West Life communities have major street projects underway and many of them are state funded. Drivers have endured extra time in hot cars while others tried to figure out alternative routes to skirt the loud rat-a-tat of big drills used to replace waterlines, dig up failing pavement and repair stormwater basins and culverts.
Let's not forget the streets that are being repaved require grinding to remove top layers of asphalt before new layers can be applied. That bumpy ride makes your teeth chatter in your head – even if they’re not dentures.
One of the most puzzling affronts happened to folks traveling State Route 83, Avon Belden Road, in Avon Lake. While no road work was scheduled, it became a parking lot when the state rerouted truck traffic from SR 252, Columbia Road, in Bay and Westlake and SR301, Abbe Road, in Sheffield Village and Sheffield Lake. Adding to the misery, the state ordered repairs to a culvert on nearby Moore Road, pushing even more traffic onto 83.
That doesn't mean long, bumpy delays on Lorain, Center Ridge, Hilliard, Lake, Harris, Colorado, Detroit, Abbe, Dover Center, Nagel, Columbia and I-90 have been any easier to tolerate.
Some might argue that this is the price you pay for better roads. Yes and no. We expect some delays, but the state blew through $1.5 billion in the last transportation budget – and still ran out of money.
Some blame previous administrations for kicking the can down the road and not adequately addressing funding needs for road maintenance. There's still talk that, despite the recent gas tax increase, the state will run a deficit when it comes to completing promised road work this biennium. Hang on to your steering wheels. This road could get even bumpier.