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State Representative Rex Damschroder (R- Fremont) has offered testimony on a bill he says will clarify responsibilities for maintaining grade separations over the Ohio Turnpike.
 
Testifying before the House Transportation, Public Safety, and Homeland Security Committee Wednesday, Damschroder said House Bill 40, which he is sponsoring, would ensure the Ohio Turnpike Commission is responsible for major maintenance, repair, and replacement of grade separations at intersections of any turnpike project with county and township roads. Routine maintenance would be the responsibility of counties or townships.
 
The impetus behind the bill, he said, stems from problems in Sandusky County but the bill, if passed, would affect all counties straddling the turnpike and could also save them money if they have similar issues.

According to an analysis of the bill:

• “Major maintenance and repair and replacement relates to all elements constructed as part of or required for a grade separation, including box culverts, bridges, pile, foundations, substructures, abutments, piers, superstructures, approach slabs, slopes, approaches, embankments, railing, guardrails, drainage facilities, including headwalls and under drains, inlets, catch basins and grates, fences, and appurtenances. Major maintenance and repair includes the painting and the repair of deteriorated or damaged elements to restore the structural integrity of any grade separation including embankments.”

• “Routine maintenance includes, without limitation, clearing debris, sweeping snow and ice removal, wearing surface improvements, marking for traffic control, minor and emergency repairs to railing and appurtenances, and emergency patching.”
 
Damchroder said Sandusky County Engineer James Moyer would be available testimony if the bill is given additional hearings and will “...inform the committee as to the long history of road problems in the county, which has resulted in the closure of several county and township roads due to deteriorating conditions and faulty construction by the turnpike. Closure of these roads has presented a major inconvenience to motorists and farmers in the county. Even more importantly, the closures have created a public safety risk due to emergency response vehicles having to take longer routes to get to their destinations.”
 
He said the turnpike commission and local officials in the county disagree over maintenance responsibilities of the roads and current law is unclear.
 
“The separations were clearly built for the benefit of the turnpike,” Damschroder testified. “It stands to reason that the Ohio Turnpike Commission should therefore be responsible for the costs involved with major maintenance and repair and replacement of grade separations.”
 
A call to the turnpike commission Thursday for comment was not returned.
 
Similar bills were introduced in the past two general assemblies and the more recent version passed both chambers and was amended into the state budget. Gov. Ted Strickland line item vetoed the language.
 
“Under existing law, the Ohio Turnpike Commission is responsible for the maintenance and repair of bridges that pass over the turnpike and the 13 counties along the turnpike are responsible for the maintenance and repair of grade separation approaches,” the governor wrote. “Vetoing this provision will preserve consistency in the shared commission and local responsibility for maintenance and repair of grade separations along the turnpike.”
 

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