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ODOT Wrestles With Future Of Ohio's Transportation Systems

highway in Columbus
Gabe Rosenberg

The head of the Ohio Department of Transportation says the state is at a crossroads with policy on how to move people and products around safely and efficiently.

ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks said the 10.5 cent state gas tax increase will send an additional $370 million this year to local governments, and will help with 150 projects split in urban, suburban and rural areas.

But the gas tax hike may lose steam in the future, as it’s estimated that nearly all vehicles on the roads in 25 years will be electric.

“We are transitioning. We are looking at a transition of this system. Technology is coming. What we're looking at in the future is a paradigm shift,” Marchbanks said.

Looking ahead, Marchbanks says both regional light rail and passenger rail are important. A project to connect Ohio’s three biggest cities with passenger trains was shut down a decade ago.

Marchbanks said the state and local governments should be looking at lots of transportation options for the future.

“Passenger rail is important," Marchbanks said. "I think even more important and this is just me speaking, for local regions’ economic vitality and health and quality of life is regional light rail.”

He also said ODOT is watching the development of hyperloop projects through Columbus and Cleveland, but stresses those are private sector enterprises.