Last week Ohio's DOT announced that improved department efficiency, workforce and vehicle fleet reductions, higher than projected gas tax receipts, the elimination of federal earmarks, are allowing the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to dump $400 million into the budget for major new construction projects throughout the state.

ODOT Director ODOT Director Jerry Wray said “Our employees are working at a rapid pace to reduce our cost of doing business and improve service to the state’s motoring public. We’re innovating and approaching the delivery of services in a new way, and all of this is allowing us to save millions of dollars that we can put into our major construction budget.”

ODOT has saved a total of $400 million over the next five fiscal years (2013-2017) and added that money to the state’s capital budget: $200 million in fiscal year 2013 and $50 million for each of the four following fiscal years. That translates into major transportation projects that will soon be under way.

Construction dates for all five projects were delayed more than a decade when ODOT announced this past January a $1.6 billion budget hole that put the brakes on the construction on some of the state’s largest, most complex transportation projects.
Five projects in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati are moving forward right now:

Cuyahoga County – West 73rd Street relocation and new bridge construction as part of the Lakefront West project
The next phase of the Lakefront West project will extend and relocate West 73rd Street and construct a new bridge under the Norfolk Southern Railroad to access the West Shoreway and Edgewater Park. In order to get shovels into the ground next year, ODOT is investing $12 million in the project combined with $7 million from the city of Cleveland and $15 million from the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA).

Franklin County – The reconstruction of a portion I-270’s northern corridor
The initial phase of the I-270 project will include the construction of two new express lanes from I-270 to U.S. Route 23 north. The lanes will actually go under the existing U.S. Route 23 and reemerge just north of the Franklin County line, bypassing traffic lights, reducing congestion and improving motorist safety.

Franklin County – The construction of two new bridges as part of the downtown I-70/I-71 redesign
This downtown project will include the construction of a new bridge from I-70 on Mound Street and a second new bridge over I-70 on 18th Street. Construction for both projects could begin as soon as next summer.

Clermont County – An interchange reconstruction on I-275
This project is a phase of the Eastern Corridor in southwest Ohio. It will include the reconstruction of an interchange at I-275 and US 32 to accommodate traffic increases and help reduce congestion.

Hamilton County – A railroad bridge replacement over I-75
This project will construct phase six of the Mill Creek Expressway and includes the replacement and reconstruction of a rail road bridge located south of SR 562 on I-75.

ODOT said in January that it had a $1.6 billion transportation funding crisis that resulted in pushing back by decades some of the state’s largest construction projects. But by June, the agency was able to redirect more than $400 million through improved department efficiency, workforce and vehicle fleet reductions, higher than projected gas tax receipts, the elimination of federal earmarks, and savings from a mild winter. That money was used to help plug a portion of the budget hole and meant that future delays for some construction projects were significantly reduced or eliminated.

To give just one example where the state found savings, ODOT said it will save more than $10 million just by changing the way road salt is purchased. In the past ODOT asked companies to bid on a county-by-county basis. This year they're giving companies the option to provide bids on entire ODOT districts in addition to individual counties. That results in a reduction from $54.02 per ton ordered last year to paying a statewide average this year of $40.91, saving $13.11 per ton, which adds up to $10,159,700.

Where there's a will, there's a way.