In a boon to cities across the state, the Ohio Department of Transportation will pay the entire bill for projects that aim to make roads safer.

The state previously paid for 90 percent of safety projects. Now, ODOT will cover the entire cost of those projects, using funds from last year’s gas tax increase.

Last year, the state increased the tax on unleaded gas by 10.5 cents, and 19 cents on diesel to support the state’s infrastructure. Paying for the entire cost of of safety improvements was one of the selling points that helped the gas tax increase pass, said Matt Bruning, press secretary for the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Safety projects include installing turning lanes, reconstructing curves and upgrading signs, signals and pavement markings, according to ODOT.

“When a municipality, or a township, or ... a local government entity, when they would apply for these safety funds, they were required to put up 10 percent of the total cost, of whatever it was they were applying for, and in some places, that was a barrier,” Bruning said.

Municipalities will still have to apply for the funds, but if the application is accepted, funding will be provided by ODOT.

The 10-percent requirement could be significant, especially since ODOT will consider requests of up to $10 million for safety projects.

“We’ve already had a lot of communities reaching out saying they want to take advantage of this,” Bruning said.

The funds are available for any local road.

The state found that 63 percent of fatal crashes happened on roads maintained by local governments, not the state, Bruning said. 

Local governments that wish to apply for funds should reach out to their ODOT district’s safety coordinator, who can talk them through the process of applying for funds.

“Those folks will be able to step these communities through the process,” Bruning said.

Ohio now has the third-largest safety project fund in the nation, investing $158 million per year into such projects, Bruning said.

“It’s exciting that we’re able to do this, and this is part of what the pitch was when we were talking to [the] legislature about why we needed these additional funds,” Bruning said.

The complexity of the application process differs, said Ray Marsch, ODOT District 4 spokesperson.

Governments in Ashtabula County should reach out to ODOT District 4’s Highway Safety Coordinator David Griffith for help with the application process, Marsch said. “He wants to make sure that nobody’s time is being wasted sending bad applications down to Columbus.”

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