Time is running out for local governmental agencies to ask for the Licking County Area Transportation Study's help in funding transportation projects.
The city of Heath would be hard-pressed to complete most of its road and transportation projects without LCATS' help, said John Groff, Heath's chief of the division of building and zoning.
Groff said Heath has been an LCATS member for 20 years and, like other Licking County municipalities, relies on LCATS and its access to federal Transportation Improvement Program funding for its transportation projects.
LCATS' deadline is July 7 for accepting applications from qualified local government entities for transportation projects planned for state fiscal years 2011 to 2015.
Groff said TIP funding currently is fueling three Heath projects - a bridge rehabilitation on Hopewell Drive, a bicycle path from the Heath City Water Park to the Heath-Newark-Licking County Port Authority,and an Irving-Wick Drive resurfacing endeavor. The projects range in price from $300,000 to $1.5-million.
"We couldn't do it without LCATS funding," Groff said, particularly considering Heath budgets only $150,000 a year for transportation projects.
LCATS transportation planner Matt Hill said the Ohio Department of Transportation funnels TIP funding through LCATS for local transportation projects. He said LCATS updates previous TIP projects to include a fiscal update of the existing projects through the next four state fiscal years.
"And, if appropriate, we review new projects for inclusion in the TIP," Hill said.
The TIP funds up to 80 percent of a given transportation project, leaving the municipality responsible for a local match.
LCATS director Sandie Mapel said only governmental agencies may apply for TIP funding; roughly $1.8-million is available annually. It's federal transportation money, she said, so if it's a highway project, it must be on the federal-aid system. Bicycle and pedestrian projects could be anywhere, but they must be for transportation and must connect destinations that are not strictly for recreational purposes.
"We encourage potential applicants to contact us with questions prior to applying so we can guide them in relation to what's eligible," Mapel said. Specifically, she encourages applicants to contact Hill.
"The intent and majority of funds are for use in the Newark urbanized area, so most of the projects are in Newark, Heath and the surrounding area," Mapel said.
Not all of them are, though. Although some of these projects involve the state Route 13 and Waterworks Road construction in north Newark and several resurfacings, others include a U.S. Route 62-state Route 37 safety project in Johnstown, and another pending project in Hebron.
Mapel said a very specific project development process is required to access federal funding, so she encourages new applicants to begin with something simple and then move forward with more complex projects after the applicant is familiar with the process.
LCATS distributes two types of TIP funds, she said. The first is Surface Transportation Program funding, or STP, which is very flexible and available for any type of federally eligible multimodal transportation project, she said. The second is Congestion Mitigation Air Quality funding, or CMAQ, which strictly requires the project to reduce traffic congestion and air quality.
"These funds are frequently used in conjunction with safety funds to reduce crashes and improve congestion at intersections," she said. Transit agencies also frequently use CMAQ funds to upgrade and replace less-fuel-efficient vehicles.
Heath Mayor Mark Johns stressed the value of TIP funding.
"The application process is important," he said. "Many municipalities can't tackle these projects on their own."