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Ohio Transportation Budget Looks to the Future with Focus on Job Creation, Public Transportation, Rail Safety

HB 23 passed the Ohio House with unanimous support from the Democratic Caucus
March 30, 2023
Sedrick Denson News

COLUMBUS – State Rep. Sedrick Denson today called 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. 

“HB 23 is much needed legislation in the state of Ohio and I am glad to see it pass,” said Rep. Denson.

HB 23 prioritizes job creation, public transportation funding, the allocation of roughly $6 billion over the next two years to statewide highway construction projects, and improved railway safety measures. The bill next goes to Governor DeWine’s office for his signature. 

Democratic Caucus priorities secured in HB 23 include:

Public Transportation

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.

Railroad Safety

Wayside Detectors

  • 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.

Two-Person Crew

  • 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

Force Accounts

  • 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. 

Electric Vehicles

  • 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.