The Ohio Department of Transportation informed the city of Pataskala last week that its application for funding for engineering and design work to support a proposed $5-million rail spur was not recommended for 2011 approval in state funding.

The Ohio Department of Transportation informed the city of Pataskala last week that its application for funding for engineering and design work to support a proposed $5-million rail spur was not recommended for 2011 approval in state funding.

Major transportation projects in Ohio are funded by the Transportation Review Advisory Council, which issued its draft list of projects Dec. 9. Final approval will be made in March, following a public-comment period that extends through Feb. 11.

"They had applied for funding from ODOT through TRAC," said Scott Varner, ODOT spokesman. "That funding did not happen this time."

Varner said that the major factor against the application was a lack of sufficient local participation in funding, especially from the private sector.

"The greater that percentage (of private investment), the higher the score," Varner said. "That's almost a business-type model. You and I are more likely to invest in something if we know the other person is also investing in it, the private third party. That shows a real commitment to a project."

Varner said letters were mailed Dec. 13 and 14 to inform unsuccessful TRAC applicants of weaknesses in their applications.

"They had applied for about half-a-million dollars for detailed engineering and design work on this project," Varner said. "This is preliminary stuff. It's not about the dollars for construction because the project is not to that point, but rather the planning behind it."

"There were a couple of pieces of the application that the TRAC had some concerns about," Varner said. "One of those was about how to better partner with the local community and the private sector in funding this project. That was one of the recommendations out of TRAC, was to ask the city to see whether there was a way to work with local developers to bring in additional private investment."

As part of TRAC's scoring, among many changes made to its process is that it puts greater emphasis on economic development, Varner said. Pataskala's project does that, he said, but a stronger case could have been made.

"We also give higher scores to projects that show strong local and private investment," he said. "Those are two areas of potential for this project, in terms of any future applications, where the TRAC wants to see something stronger."

TRAC funds all manners of transportation, including roads, air, water, and rail freight and passenger service.

"If you look at the TRAC list, you see freight rail projects such as Pataskala's rail spur," Varner said. "You see passenger rail, such as the Cincinnati streetcars. You see water-port projects, transit projects, really all the different modes. We have flexible dollars that allow us to invest in a lot of different areas."

One criterion used in scoring is land-use measure, such as "smart growth," redevelopment of "brownfields," improved access for business development, employment opportunities and economic distress.

City administrator Tim Boland said he hasn't yet reviewed the TRAC comments.