YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As local road departments are busy clearing away snow and ice, county engineers are already making plans for their summer paving programs.
Senator Sherrod Brown wants to invest millions into infrastructure improvements, with a major focus on bridges.
Local officials said that really only scratches the surface, however. They said more needs to be done to address roads and water lines.
Thursday morning, Youngstown’s Board of Control approved a $400,000 plan to repave roads in the downtown Youngstown area, including Market Street between Front and Commerce streets through the Central Square.
In the meantime, Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti has a number of roads, including Glenwood Avenue near Midlothian, on his list for paving this summer.
Between Mahoning County and the City of Youngstown, close to $20 million will be spent to resurface about a dozen different roads.
More than two-thirds of the funding will come from the state, but local leaders said it’s nowhere near enough.
“Even if we were to take the entire budget and put that toward roads, we’re still not there. You know, we have a roughly $10 to $11 million budget. We need $60 to $70 million just for roads right now,” Ginnetti said.
Road departments rely on $5 license plate fees and gas taxes to support their operations as well as pay the local match needed for paving projects. Federal highway funds are a help, but not the solution.
“We’re somewhere in the neighborhood of $67 million a year for both Mahoning and Trumbull counties and yeah, one project like South Avenue was close to a million dollars for one roadway,” said Youngstown Public Works Director Chuck Shasho.
Because of rising prices for materials, it costs about $100,000 to resurface a mile of roadway with a couple inches of asphalt. To completely rebuild that same mile would cost a million.
“If the feds or the state aren’t able to come up with a funding source, we’re left with no other option but to go back to the locals…the taxpayers of each community,” Ginnetti said.
Although Pennsylvania recently raised its gas tax to 58 cents a gallon, Ohio’s rate of 28 cents hasn’t changed since 2005. Ohio counties only get about 11 percent of what’s collected.
“It’s harder and harder to do what we need to do with the amount of money we’re getting, so we’re forced to do less,” Ginnetti said.
Youngstown Mayor John McNally said it doesn’t even begin to address the need to replace sewer and water lines in the city, which could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.
While President Trump has talked about creating a trillion dollar program to pay for infrastructure improvements across the country, local officials said it wouldn’t take long to use that up.
“You know, we have about 750 miles of water lines underneath the ground to replace all of those. We’re probably looking at about $700 million,” McNally said.
For now, local engineers said they would like to see an increase in gas taxes, at least until a better solution can be found.