Updated MORPC document will determine project funding
The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) is in the midst of a four-year update to its 2012-2035 Metropolitan Transportation Plan, a document that outlines transportation projects around central Ohio and helps local municipalities obtain federal funding for those projects.
More than 300 transportation projects around central Ohio with an estimated cost of $16.47 billion could receive MORPC backing.
MORPC’s citizen advisory committee is a group of volunteers who represent the areas covered by the commission, including those traditionally underserved by transportation. The group will review the transportation plan and provide MORPC’s policy committee with comments and a recommendation on May 10 to either adopt, modify or reject the plan.
Comments on the plan will be accepted until April 13. The public can submit comments to Reger at 111 Liberty St., Suite 100, Columbus, Ohio 43215, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The transportation plan includes roads, bicycle and pedestrian facilities, buses, rail and air in Delaware and Franklin counties, as well as portions of Licking and Fairfield counties.
Nancy Reger, MORPC deputy director of transportation, told the audience at a recent public forum the group must work to help people get around.
The plan was put together with the goals of reducing energy consumption per capita, preserving natural resources, making central Ohio attractive to businesses and reducing traffic congestion. The plan also strives to create sustainable neighborhoods; use public investments to benefit the health, safety and welfare of the community; reduce traffic crashes by 15 percent; maintain pavement conditions; reduce the number of poorly maintained bridges; maintain 700 miles of designated bikeways.
According to Reger, member communities submitted future transportation projects for inclusion in the Metropolitan Transportation Plan.
For the 2012 update, MORPC received more than 700 projects for consideration, she said. The projects were analyzed and if they met the criteria, they were added to the list, she said.
The draft plan includes more than 300 projects.
Reger said projects in the plan will be flagged to receive federal funding.
“This is how we spend our money,” she said, noting that once a project is on the plan, it gets built.
MORPC is a federally mandated organization, but communities in the region join voluntarily, Reger said.
Participation in MORPC, however, aids with federal funding, she said.
“If a local government wants federal money, it (the project) must be on the MORPC list,” Reger said.
According to the draft plan, funding comes from federal, state and local resources, some of which are drying up.
“Funding from traditional sources, such as the gas tax, can only provide funding to maintain the existing system with very little available to expand the transportation system,” the draft plan states.
Along with flattening gas-tax revenues, the draft plan also cites highway trust-fund problems and funding from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).
ODOT recently delayed high-priority transportation projects to as far in the future as 2036.
“Thus, the amount of funding forecasted to be available is far less than the approximately $24 billion worth of transportation system expansion projects that were identified in preparing this transportation plan,” the draft plan states.
While a spot on the Metropolitan Transportation Plan could help secure funding, it does not guarantee construction in the next few years.
Nearly 50 projects on the draft list that are slated for construction between 2012 and 2015 are considered short-term projects because of their position on local improvement programs.
Others, however, must wait longer. Eleven projects are designated for planning from 2012 to 2015, with construction by 2020. Many other projects anticipate construction between 2020 and 2035.