April 8, 2013
State Rep. Terry Johnson
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a strong proponent for infrastructure improvements, big or small, that will bring jobs and economic opportunity to our beloved southern Ohio. Unfortunately, in the past, such projects have been few and far between, especially for Scioto County. Now, with the new highway proposal for the Lucasville/Minford area, we have a rare opportunity to seize upon a huge project that will open southern Ohio for the kind of growth that we have not seen in decades.
The plan set forth by the Ohio Department of Transportation will take the old bypass project (which will take many decades to complete under the old financial model) and put people to work almost immediately. The good people who have gone through the pain of giving up their property for a project that remains many decades down the road would now see their sacrifice turned into good results for all who live here. A $600 million dollar project (yes, that’s right, $600 million!) would start dumping money into our local economy pretty much overnight, and our Ohio River properties would finally be opened for industrial development by linking a modern, state-of-the-art high-speed highway with our water and rail assets.
It is important for the citizens of the 90th District and all of our regional neighbors to know that I have been in discussions with ODOT and our local officials for years now regarding how best to handle this project. What I have learned is that there is no turning back. The only question is how rapidly we will proceed—will we start the project now and be done in four or five years, or will we let this draw out for another twenty or thirty years? Over the past few weeks, ODOT has approached local elected officials and business leaders to gauge their support for moving ahead with an innovative model for financing the project that will make the highway start immediately. If local officials support the new model, ODOT also requests that they sign letters of support. Two such meetings have taken place in Scioto County for this purpose, and I have participated in both. My concern in all of this is to best represent my constituents and see to it that we get the greatest gain for all of our families.
To make this project an immediate reality, we would be entering into a new kind of business arrangement that would allow a contractor to not only build the road but also take over the maintenance of state roads in Scioto County. Two things concern me here: first, the jobs of those who work at our ODOT garage; and second, the quality of the maintenance work that will be done by the company who gets the contract. I and the other elected officials have been assured that no one at our ODOT garage will lose a job, although they would most likely have to drive to an ODOT facility in a neighboring county to continue to work. Some would actually be able to remain here in Scioto County to supervise the private company. I have requested and ODOT has agreed to put this in writing for us. Also, they point out, the contactor would have to hire people to provide the maintenance that they would be obligated to do. So we would keep our ODOT jobs, and get to add more jobs to our local economy after the construction is done. As to the quality of the maintenance work, we have no real guarantee there. I think our Scioto County ODOT crews do a fantastic job, and I will want more assurances from state ODOT officials that our roads will be cared for as well or better than they are now.
Along the lines of getting the most out of this project that I can for our citizens, I have also asked ODOT to consider “sweetening the deal” by using some of the earth that will have to be cut through the hills to expand the length of our airport, and to also think about adding an extra entrance ramp to the highway at State Route 52. They are, thus far, very willing to consider such items, as the new method of getting the job done opens many possibilities.
So, do we want the highway now, or do we want it much, much later? Do we want the construction jobs and the spin-off jobs and development that this will bring, or are we willing to put this off to a later date? Are we ready to build, or do we want to take a pass on this? One thing that no one has yet done is asked for YOUR input. I want to know what YOU think about the Portsmouth Bypass. Please e-mail my office at Rep90@ohiohouse.gov or send a letter to 77 S. High Street 13th Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215.
I trust in your wisdom and will represent you to the best of my ability.