COLUMBUS – Ohio House Democrats today call the passage of the $13.5 billion Ohio Transportation Budget (HB 23) by the House of Representatives an intricate plan for the future that will create jobs and help grow Ohio’s economy. It passed with unanimous Democratic Caucus support.
“I think we can all agree that this bipartisan transportation budget is a big win for all Ohioans. It builds out a blueprint for the future that will create jobs, connect the workforce to the worksite, and improve roads and bridges across the state,” said Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington). “In the past 30 years, rail safety measures were never on the table. I’m proud House Democrats championed these amendments that will continue to bring attention to the disaster in East Palestine and make sure it never happens again. It shows that when we put people first, we can ensure every working family has the opportunities needed to thrive– no matter their zip code.”
HB 23 prioritizes job creations, public transportation funding, the allocation of roughly $6 billion over the next two years to statewide highway construction projects, and improves railway safety measures.
“This transportation budget will make a tremendous difference for Ohio’s economic future. It is an investment in people– the most valuable resource Ohio has. It will allocate billions to improve our roads and bridges, therefore creating jobs and giving people a much needed opportunity,” said Rep. Sweeney (D-Westlake), Ranking Member of the Ohio House Finance Committee. “From the beginning of this process, we were determined to get substantive and meaningful railway safety measures included in this budget. We must continue to fight for the people of East Palestine and show Ohio will always have their back.”
“This Transportation budget is the product of bipartisan hard work by prioritizing the people of Ohio with investments in workforce development, fixing our roads and bridges and much needed rail safety improvements,” said Rep. Skindell (D-Lakewood), Ranking Member of the Finance Sub. Committee on Transportation. “The investments made in HB 23 will benefit Ohioans in all parts of the state, and because of this, it ensures we can attract businesses to further grow our economy, and continue to keep everyone safe in the process. It is important to note, that although the investments in public transportation are significant and important, more can always be done to help aid the underfunded system that so many of our constituents rely on daily.”
The bill next goes to Governor DeWine’s office for his signature.
Democratic Caucus priorities secured in HB 23 include:
Public Transportation funding
- Maintains state funding at $37M/FY and maintains $33M/FY Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) flexible funding program.
Ohio Workforce Mobility Partnership Program
- Creates the Ohio Workforce Mobility Partnership Program with state funding of $15M/FY to provide grants to Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) for workforce mobility initiatives.
- Requires Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to work with each railroad company doing business in Ohio to ensure that the wayside detector systems used by those companies are operational, effective, and current.
- Specifies the criteria that PUCO, ODOT, and the company must consider while doing so.
- Requires immediate notification of a defect to the train operator under certain circumstances.
- Requires PUCO and ODOT to investigate the safety practices of any railroad that does not work with them in good faith, and to issue a report to the Federal Railroad Administration recommending enforcement action against a company if the results of their investigation show that it is not in compliance with federal safety standards.
- Requires wayside detectors to generally be installed between 10-15 miles apart and requires ODOT and PUCO to oversee proper installation.
- Requires PUCO to examine best practices for hot boxes, hot bearing detectors, acoustic bearing detectors, and cameras installed on or near railroad tracks. Requires PUCO to submit findings to the General Assembly.
- Requires a freight train or light engine to have at least a two-person crew.
- Permits PUCO to assess a civil penalty against a person who violates this requirement.
- Requires Attorney General's Office to (AGO) bring a civil action to collect the penalty when PUCO requests AGO to do so.
- Specifies that the two-person crew requirement for trains or light engines in the bill is solely related to safety, including ensuring that a train or light engine is not left without a functional crew person due to a medical emergency.
- Provides that the two-person crew section no longer applies if the federal government adopts a requirement that a train or light engine used in connection with the movement of freight in Ohio must have a crew of at least two individuals.
Hazardous Material Reporting
- Requires PUCO and the Ohio EPA to prepare and submit a written report to the General Assembly, within 90 days of the bill's effective date, pertaining to the transportation of hazardous materials and hazardous waste.
Other Notable Provisions
- For the first time since 2003, HB 23 raises force account limits, which require local entities to bid out projects when they reach a certain dollar threshold. Under the bill, limits will be raised for road, bridge, and culvert construction and maintenance by 133% with a 5% inflation cap per year.
Brent Spence Bridge
- Allocates $3 billion in both federal and state funding, including funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, to Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project. Requires that all spending related to the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project be documented in the state's accounting system (OAKS) and made visible in the Ohio State and Local Government Expenditure Database (the Ohio Checkbook website).
Strategic Transportation and Development Analysis/Studies
- The bill creates a Strategic Transportation and Development Analysis to be used for a statewide study of the Ohio transportation system in collaboration with the Department of Development and the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation.
Ohio Rail Commission
- Authorizes the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) or its designees to construct and operate an intercity conventional or high speed passenger transportation system under ORDC’s authority. Requires that the plan for the system provide for the connection of any points in Ohio and nearby states rather than only for the connection of Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati and any points in between, as under current law.
Cincinnati Southern Railway
- Allows the City of Cincinnati to sell its Cincinnati Southern Railway, subject to approval by local voters. If the ballot initiative fails, the bill prohibits the Railway board of trustees from putting the issue before voters again without the General Assembly’s authorization.
- Beginning January 1, 2024, reduces from $200 to $150, the additional registration fee applicable to plug-in hybrid electric motor vehicles.
Veterans License Plates
- Requires the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to accept county-issued veterans identification cards for a military license plate.