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Funding fixes must not harm Ohioans

We have entered the time of year when faults in our roads and bridges are more obvious than ever. Ice and salt don’t help matters. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (Ohio Council) the state’s infrastructure is only getting worse, with improvement efforts hampered by the pandemic.

In 16 categories, the ASCE graded Ohio: bridges, C+; dams, C-; drinking water, D+, energy, C; hazardous waste, D-; inland waterways, D+; levees, D; parks, C-; ports, C; rail, B; roads, D; schools, C+; solid waste B-; stormwater, D+; transit, D and wastewater, C-. That works out to a grade point average of C- for Ohio’s infrastructure. Taxpayers should want better.

A below-average grade is not acceptable when we’re talking about public safety. But the matter may not be entirely in the state’s hands — not this year, at least. Ohio’s ASCE offered solutions such as consistently dedicating public funding to infrastructure investment, and raising the user fee on gasoline and diesel fuel. It also pitched this gem: “Infrastructure owners and operators must charge, and Ohioans must be willing to pay, rates and fees that reflect the true cost of using, maintaining and improving all infrastructure, including our water, waste, transportation and energy services.”

Easy, right? Remember, Ohio tried raising the gasoline and diesel taxes, JUST in time to see the pandemic dramatically reduce travel and the use of fuel. And so far as being willing to pay increased rates and fees, most Ohioans would probably be willing … if they were able.

Far too many Ohio residents are barely keeping their heads above water financially right now. Some have given up trying.

Lawmakers, local officials and facility operators need to address the dangers of a crumbling state infrastructure, there is no doubt. To do it on the backs of those who are wondering how they will ever recover from the blows dealt over the past year would be irresponsible.

They will have to find another way in the short term, while planning carefully for a long-term solution.

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