Improving Ohio’s infrastructure

Just a couple of weeks ago my colleagues and I were able to pass an unprecedented budget, which successfully filled an $8 billion deficit without increasing taxes.

While I am proud of this accomplishment, there is still more work that needs to be done here in Ohio.

As a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I understand the important role our roads and infrastructure system play in our state’s economic success. In fact, the McKinsey Global Institute found that “multinational companies consistently rank infrastructure among the top four criteria they use to make decisions about where to invest.”

While Governor Kasich and the majority members of the General Assembly are diligently working to bring jobs to Ohio, the importance of our infrastructure cannot be downplayed.

Unfortunately, at the present time, Ohio’s infrastructure system is facing serious challenges. Nearly 40 percent of Ohio’s roads have fallen out of “good” condition, according to Smart Growth America. Additionally, it would take over $1.1 billion over the next 20 years to return Ohio roads to good repair and maintain this status.

Although the price tag of bringing Ohio’s roads to good repair is startling, a far more upsetting statistic comes from the Transportation Road Information Project (TRIP). This found that Ohio’s deteriorating roads are adding to the financial burden of Ohio families. In fact, these road conditions are costing each motorist approximately $212 a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs, causing more strain on already tight family budgets.

As the State Representative of Ohio’s 66 House District, and a fiscal conservative, I feel compelled to look for a solution to change this. Neglecting our infrastructure system is not an option. Maximizing the value of our public investment is necessary. New research from John W. Fischer found that combining tools such as life-cycle cost analysis (LCAA), alternate design/alternate bid (ADAB), and mechanistic-empirical pavement design guide (MEPDG) can actually maximize investment, efficiency, and transparency in infrastructure investments.

The states that have implemented these tools have encountered huge savings. For example, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development performed LCCA on a number of projects, resulting in a price difference between materials of roughly 25 percent. Missouri, using alternate design and bid, saw a savings of 5.1 percent on asphalt and 8.6 percent on concrete projects. Additionally, Indiana saved almost $10.3 million dollars on 23 projects through re-engineered pavement design guide construction methods.

The current economy has made local, state, and federal governments cautious toward infrastructure investments. This makes it even the more important that the investments made are the most cost-effective possible. The use of performance management techniques mentioned above will ensure that our budgets account for the actual costs of projects, including the cost of their upkeep, and will increase the transparency of public spending.

With the tight budgets that the local, state and federal governments are facing today, many have let infrastructure maintenance projects slide. This can be a giant mistake. Foregoing these expenses today will cost us more tomorrow. Budgets need to properly plan for the cost of infrastructure upkeep. Minor costs associated with general maintenance of road can quickly escalate into expensive reconstruction project.

In fact, according to the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, every $1 spent now to keep a road in good condition staves off the expense of $6 to $14 to rebuild the same road later.

While the bustling around the Capitol in Columbus has slowed down since the budget passed, I will keep working on finding ways to save the taxpayers money and increase transparency in government spending, including looking more closely at these methods of managing our infrastructure investments. The possible savings are just too great to ignore.

Joe Uecker (R-Miami Township) is the state representative serving the 66th District.