DeWine signs the $13.5 billion Ohio transportation budget with no vetoes

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — No vetoes by Gov. Mike DeWine for Ohio’s $13.5 billion transportation budget, right on the March 31 deadline for it to be in place.

Traffic moves along I-270 in northeast Columbus at dusk
Traffic moves along I-270 in northeast Columbus at dusk. [Karen Kasler | Statehouse News Bureau]
The transportation budget includes the first changes in 20 years to force accounts, which specify how local construction project dollars can be allocated. It increases the monetary threshold for force accounts by 133%, and those limits can go up each year based on ODOT’s construction cost index, though those annual increases are capped at 5%.

It also includes $3.6 billion for the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati: $1.6 billion from the federal government, $1.2 billion from Ohio and $810 million from Kentucky. Ohio is managing that project, which means all the funds for it are in Ohio’s transportation budget.

The transportation budget also includes an I-71 interchange for Brunswick.

DeWine said Ohio House Transportation Committee chair Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) didn’t follow the established procedure, but he knows a lot of drivers have been waiting with no solution in sight.

“I’m going to leave it in – it has a long way to go, a lot of hurdles to get over,” DeWine said.

After the toxic train derailment in East Palestine in February, there are also rail safety provisions, including requiring two-person crews. Rail companies have said that’s unconstitutional because it would come up against federal interstate commerce rules. DeWine said he hopes the federal government takes up safety changes, but in the meantime he wants Ohio on record as demanding them.

The transportation budget does not include a $1 billion rural highway fund, which had been added into the House version but was stripped out by the Senate. And it doesn’t include speed limit increases that were in the first version in the Senate. DeWine had threatened to veto those, saying he was “adamantly” against any increases in the speed limit.

The transportation is one of three budgets that must be passed this year. The workers’ compensation budget is still in a House committee, as is the two-year $87 billion state operating budget. Those two spending plans must be passed and signed by the end of June.