An Ohio Department of Transportation study found that turning U.S. Route 30 into a toll road won’t pay for a relocation estimated at $900 million.
Unless local and private dollars are invested, a decades-old plan to reroute a section of U.S. Route 30 from Trump Avenue SE in Canton to Columbiana County lacks the support from the Ohio Department of Transportation to move forward.
While ODOT remains open to the idea, a study released Wednesday shows that adding user tolls to the $900 million extension won’t raise enough money for the project.
“When you take a look strictly from a cost perspective, it’s an immense project,” said Steve Faulkner, ODOT spokesman . “We don’t have the money right now to foot the entire bill for a project like this.”
A 20-cent-per mile toll — which is four times higher than the rate on the Ohio Turnpike — would generate $475 million. The estimated revenue assumes several factors, like increases in traffic volume, population and employment. However, it does not account for interest on the bonds issued for construction and right-of-way acquisition or the cost to operate tollbooths.
The project scored 26 out of 100 points on Ohio’s Transportation
Review and Advisory Council’s scoring system. The east-west corridor is a four-lane highway from Indiana to Stark County.
The 35-mile, four-lane relocation would run from Trump Avenue to state Route 11 in Columbiana County.
Wednesday’s study results made public in Lisbon at a meeting of the U.S. Route 30 Corridor Action Committee, which pushed for the study.
In 2010, a proposal to relocate Route 30 from Trump to Route 44 in East Canton to create a four-lane expressway, an estimated $81 million project, was denied $7 million in funding. Instead, the state allocated $200,000 for the toll study.
Faulkner said declining motor-fuel tax revenue has limited what the department can spend on new construction projects. About $100 million is left over each year after the department budgets for the preservation and maintenance of its current highway system. He said funding issues have delayed several projects by decades.
“If we just pursued traditional means (to finance the Route 30 project), it would take an entire decade,” Faulkner said, “and that means doing nothing else for that entire decade.”
He said motorists won’t be willing to pay the high tolls.
“We are realistic in the sense that there simply is not enough money to pursue a project of this size at this time,” he said. “Even if we quadrupled the toll amount per mile, it still wouldn’t come close to covering the cost. It barely gets us to half (the cost) over a 20-year period. We certainly remain open that local communities could come together with private investment, but we won’t be the ones pushing the idea.”
East Canton Mayor Kathleen Almasy, who supported the project, said ODOT informed residents in a public meeting last year that funding issues would put the project on hold for nearly 25 years. Wednesday’s news came as no surprise.
Page 2 of 2 - “It would have eliminated a lot of gas and oil truck traffic through the village, which is a big bottleneck right now,” she said of the project. “We’re a major cut-through.”
Canton City Engineer Dan Moeglin attended the meeting in Lisbon and came away optimistic that a revised project still is possible.
“That money is just not out there, and that’s the problem,” he said. “It’s just like your own budget at home; you either make more money or cut back on expenses.”
He said a two-lane highway with fewer interchanges could be built at a lower cost with the intention of expanding in 20 years. The necessary right-of-way would be purchased to accommodate an expansion.
“I’m still optimistic about it” he said. “We’ll see what happens. I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it.”
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