Testimony of Gordon Proctor
Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation
Before the Transportation, Infrastructure and
Nuclear Safety Subcommittee of the
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee
Sept. 30, 2002
Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, I am Gordon Proctor, Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation. On behalf of Ohio Governor Bob Taft, I thank you for this opportunity to testify and we especially would like to acknowledge the assistance of Sen. Voinovich in making this possible. His leadership on transportation has been greatly appreciated.
As you shape the next transportation act, I ask that you focus on the tremendous need to rebuild, reconstruct and rejuvenate the interstate highway system. This system will reach its 50th anniversary in 2006, mid-way through the next Act. The Interstate Highway System has served us well and today plays a vital and irreplaceable role in our transportation system. At the same time, this system is aging, stressed and sorely in need of additional investment to ensure the safety, adequacy and competitiveness of our nation’s transportation system.
Let me put the interstate system in context for you. It represents only 1.2 percent of the public road miles in the United States but it carries 24 percent of our country’s traffic and 80 percent of all truck freight. Traffic volumes on the interstate system nationally have risen 41 percent in the past 10 years and truck volumes have grown by even more.
The advent of computerized inventory systems combined with the ease and access of the interstate highway network led to the creation of Just in Time Inventory. This strategy played a large role in dropping the nation’s cost of logistics from 16 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in1978 to only 10 percent of the Gross Domestic Product today.1 That means that a substantial portion of America’s rise in productivity in the past 20 years has been attributable to our Interstate Highway System. As Governor Taft has said, the interstates are the conveyor belt for America’s Just In Time economy.
However, we are experiencing very troubling trends in Ohio and across the country. Ohio is a good microcosm because our interstate highway system is America’s fourth largest and we estimate it carries the third greatest value of truck freight in the country.
In the past 25 years we have experienced an 89 percent increase in truck volumes on our interstate highways. Routinely, every day in almost every major Ohio city, truck volumes on our major interstate highways exceed 20,000 thousand trucks a day. We estimate, truck volumes will grow approximately 60 percent over the next 20 years, and some estimate the growth will be even higher. This means that within 20 years, 30,000 trucks a day will be the norm on the interstates in Cincinnati, in Dayton, in Springfield, in Toledo, in Cleveland, in Akron, in Canton, in Youngstown and in Columbus.
These routes used to be our safest and our most reliable routes. Severe congestion, outdated interchanges, poor geometrics and tremendous volumes have turned nearly every urban interstate route in Ohio into a high-congestion, high-accident bottleneck.
I-75 in Toledo carries 19,000 trucks a day. It is 43 percent over capacity and it averages 100 accidents per year per mile. A 17-mile stretch of I-75 in Cincinnati carries 184,000 vehicles a day, including 14,000 trucks and it averages 80 accidents per year per mile. I-75 in Dayton carries 20,000 trucks per day and averages 80 accidents per year per mile.
The most congested location in Ohio is the overlap of Interstate 70 and Interstate 71 in downtown Columbus, the figurative and literal crossroads of Ohio. At that location, the interstates are 114 percent over capacity and average 274 accidents per mile per year. That equals more than one accident for every business day of the year. Within a 2.5 mile radius of the junction, the routes experienced 2037 accidents over a three-year period.
I will offer one final example from Dayton, Ohio, which I suspect is indicative of what is happening in dozens of American communities. We recently completed a conceptual analysis of alternatives to improve the unsafe and congested design on I-75 near downtown Dayton. The estimated cost to bring the corridor up to modern standards was $750 million. Such costs are so far beyond the resources we have that we had no choice but to reject even an attempt to bring all aspects of the highway up to standard. Instead, we are opting for a much reduced project which will make the highway adequate for an estimated $300 million. Three hundred million dollars equals an entire year’s new construction budget for the Ohio Department of Transportation. While that one project may be feasible, multiply that project times 10 and you have an idea of the magnitude of the repairs needed in Cincinnati, Toledo, Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Youngstown and Columbus. If Ohio’s needs are this great, the needs of other states also are enormous and represent a major challenge in the next transportation act.
What can Congress do about this? First, please do not dilute the core, basic highway funding formulas which are essential to maintaining the backbone of our system. Special set asides and narrowly focused programs may be popular with certain groups. However, full funding of the basic core highway programs will do the most to rebuild our interstates.
Second, as the interstates approach their 50th year, do not let them be treated as historical artifacts subject to preservation in their current outmoded state under the nation’s historic preservation statutes.
Third, please recognize that the nation needs to restore the capacity of these critical bottlenecks and do not allow any agencies to promulgate new rules to slow down or impede our progress in repairing these locations.
Finally, we support an idea suggested by Administrator Peters that a national study or national commission is needed to evaluate the future of our interstate highway system. This system is so important to our transportation network that its future must be secure.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Voinovich, members of the committee, thank you for this opportunity and I would be happy to answer any questions.
1.Cambridge Systematics, Freight Impacts on Ohio’s Roadway System, 2002, ES 4.