Ohio’s economic fortunes always have been influenced by its location.
From its founding, leaders recognized the importance of building transportation routes to exploit locational advantage. No state outdid Ohio in promoting canals, railroads and highways.
The locational advantage remains, though in recent decades Ohio’s economy has slipped badly compared with national trends.
Despite coast-to-coast population fluctuations, Ohio remains within a day’s drive of 60 percent of the population of the United States and Canada. Transportation remains key to Ohio’s economic health.
Using projections from the Ohio Department of Transportation, the report says the state will need $55 billion by 2040 to maintain current conditions of roads, bridges and highways, but only $41 billion is expected to be available.
All of this means Ohio’s next governor and legislature, not far into 2019, will be asked to consider increasing Ohio’s gasoline tax, license fees and — most likely — a ballot issue to authorize a major bond package.
Ohio’s local chambers of commerce know lack of transportation is a major barrier to filling job openings in their communities. Half of transit riders have no car.
But it’s not just low-income Ohioans who depend on transit. Millennials and young professionals everywhere own fewer cars and drive less. They want to live in cities with transit options.
A lot rides on Ohio’s future leaders being able to navigate these imperatives.