Feds may cut local bridge, road and mass transit funding - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Feds may cut local bridge, road and mass transit funding

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A number of road and bridge projects around Northwest Ohio could be in danger if Congress doesn't pass a federal highway bill soon. That's according to Senator Sherrod Brown who was in town Friday to talk about his concerns.  The Senator used the Anthony Wayne bridge project as a backdrop. The project is not in danger of being stopped but Brown says it could be delayed if a highway bill is not extended soon.

And it's not just roads and bridges that will be affected. A part of TARTA's budget comes from the transportation bill. Carly Allen is with the union that represents TARTA drivers and mechanics,"Sometimes national problems seem far away, but this one is right in our yard." Mass transit is funded in part by federal dollars through the transportation bill, "20% of TARTA's annual operating budget comes from the federal government and without the federal money we will have to cut service at a time when demand for our service is growing." Allen says more than routes could eventually be cut, "It could ultimately mean layoffs, it's a bad word to say but it's the reality of it."

Many highway and bridge projects here in Northwest Ohio also receive federal funding. Senator Brown says some of those projects could be delayed if a transportation bill isn't passed, "We used to lead the world in infrastructure. The world had never seen anything like it. We cannot afford to see a job creating venture fail because of Congress' lack of action ."

If a bill is not in place the federal government will be forced to start cutting the money that goes to states late this summer. Some of the money that funds the highway bill comes from a gas tax. Lucas County Engineer Keith Earley says it is time for the tax to be increased,"Most people think that with rising gas prices revenue goes up, it does not. The gas tax revenue is the same as it was 20 years ago and we can only do half as much with that money today as we could 20 years ago."

Brown is calling for a bi partisan approach to fix the problem with a long term bill and he says that bill may need to include a federal gas tax increase, "I am willing to consider a number of revenue options including that, but I would have to make sure the low to moderate income working families and individuals of our country would not be hit too hard. They would have to get some other break." 

Ohio receives about 1.5 billion from the federal highway trust fund every year. Senator Brown is hoping to avoid a short term fix. He'd like to see a 5-6 year transportation bill.
He says a vote could come in a matter of weeks. The current bill expires September 30th.

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