At the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, we wake up each morning thinking about how to help ensure our region can secure economic prosperity now and for future generations. Our professional staff shares this commitment with our board members, who are mayors, city council members, business leaders and administrators representing local communities throughout central Ohio.

On Feb. 12, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). To help address the economic challenges facing the region, the MORPC board recently began deliberating how to allocate approximately $28-million in ARRA funds for transportation needs in our planning area of Franklin, Delaware and portions of Fairfield and Licking counties. As you can imagine, there are a number of great transportation projects in central Ohio. However, within the finite stimulus dollars available for transportation, there will not be enough money for all of them and many projects just simply are not going to be eligible because of time constraints and other project development issues such as securing right of way and environmental concerns.

On March 23, MORPC held a workshop with about 100 representatives of various central Ohio governmental jurisdictions to solicit input about the process to distribute the $28-million. There are additional meetings scheduled over the next three weeks with numerous stakeholders and plenty of opportunity for discussion among community leaders. These meetings are open to the public. The final decision about which projects should be funded with these federal stimulus funds will be made after input and deliberation from a number of MORPC committees, such as the Citizens Advisory Committee and the Transportation Advisory Committee.

Interested parties should make their thoughts and concerns known during the public comment period. I'm sure the MORPC list will continue to evolve, particularly now that we have seen what the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is going to fund in the region with the state-directed ARRA dollars. In my opinion, ODOT, under the direction of Director Jolene Molitoris, has been a tremendous advocate for investing in multi-modal transportation and making the critical investments that will be needed to ensure that Ohio has a complete transportation system that is second to none.

As we collectively discuss how these limited funds should be invested in the region we should also be careful not to view these stimulus funds in a vacuum or in isolation, but they should be considered in context with all other possible local, regional, state, federal and private funding opportunities. Major transportation projects are rarely funded by one source.

As they have done in the past, I have no doubt that the region's counties, cities, villages and townships will come together and select transportation projects for stimulus funding that will meet the needs of the central Ohio region while taking into account the constraints and timelines placed upon the use of these federal funds. I'm very proud of the commitment that has been demonstrated by our local leaders in support of a broader regional agenda.

Our goal is that a final list could be ready for consideration at the April 16 policy/commission board meeting. If you have any additional questions or comments please do not hesitate to give us a call. We can be reached at (614) 233-4102 or cjourdan@morpc.org.

Chester R. Jourdan Jr. is the executive director of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission.