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Congresswoman Joyce Beatty

Representing the 3rd District of Ohio

Infrastructure Week discussion urges collaboration among Central Ohio communities

May 14, 2018
News Articles

Infrastructure Week discussion urges collaboration among Central Ohio communities

Central Ohio government and business leaders say they’re ready to apply the “Columbus way” to rebuilding infrastructure so an expected 1 million new residents aren’t just stuck in traffic.

COTA and the Columbus Regional Airport Authority hosted U.S. Reps. Steve Stivers and Joyce Beatty in a crowded Monday roundtable with municipal and transportation business officials touting the region’s growing reputation for public-private partnerships.

“We’re all trying to figure out how we evolve in this period of rapid change, … how we harness the change and make it sustainable in our everyday lives,” said Joanna Pinkerton, new CEO of the Central Ohio Transit Authority.

“Steve and I don’t agree on a lot of things we vote on,” said Beatty, a Columbus Democrat. “When you talk about bringing money back home to the districts, when you talk about transportation, we sing out of the same hymn book.”

Congress no longer has earmarks, which are line items for specific local projects, but Stivers said he’s hoping he can count on Central Ohio leaders as a united voice to lawmakers crafting larger aviation, water and sewer, and roads bills. The effort has been delayed more than a year.

“It was good to hear the perspective of the community and the collaboration,” the Columbus Republican said.

Worsening congestion on Rt. 315 is just one example of the need to plan correctly, because mistakes are difficult to fix once infrastructure is built, said Kevin Boyce, president of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners.

Attendees came from Columbus and suburban governments, railways, utilities and planning agencies.

The last time such a large group united led to the development of the logistics hub at Rickenbacker, Pinkerton said. The meeting was in a cargo and commerce terminal building that was part of the push.

Now many of the same players are recommitted to taking a more holistic look at transportation issues.

Speakers emphasized integrating non-automotive transportation into a cohesive system – maybe even a hyperloop. The region can take advantage of sensors and data analytics to reduce cost and improve efficiency, Pinkerton said, citing a system of sensors and valves in Indianapolis sewers that have saved millions of dollars by preventing overflows.

Federal budget policy also could incentivize good urban planning, she said, such as a Central Ohio initiative to evaluate every road construction project for the possibility of installing fiber optic broadband cable.

“We will not be successful unless we talk about the success and connectivity between regions,” Columbus City Council President Shannon Hardin said. “If you want an actionable plan, support (the entire) region, because we will get it done.”

Beatty urged attendees to take the same energy they show when lobbying their own representatives to the U.S. Department of Transportation and other members of Congress.

“This is real power,” Beatty said. “We’ve got to take this bipartisan, diverse conversation out of this room.”

The meeting was one of several in the nationwide Infrastructure Week series of events. The nonprofit organization was created in 2013 by a bipartisan coalition of business and labor groups.

Also this week, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat, introduced a bill to create a $75 billion, 10-year bridge construction grant program, coming out of the Highway Trust Fund.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission is studying the region’s traffic corridors and the likely distribution of population density in the future. Community leaders will need to collaborate to implement the resulting recommendations, she said.

This article was originally published by Columbus Business Journal on May 15, 2018.