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While the Muskingum County Commissioners and Engineer were able to work out funding for Grant Cliff Bridge the issue arises as to how to pay for project in the future.
The Muskingum County Engineer said a portion of his funding comes from the gas tax and license plate fees. Currently, the office maintains 241 bridges that span between 10 and 20 feet. Bridges are placed on a cycle for repair. The engineer has programed bridges out to 2016 based on federal funds. The engineer said for every $60 a person puts into their vehicle half a penny goes to funding.
"We know that our revenues are declining. People are driving less. They are driving more fuel efficient cars and the federal mandates are that the vehicles must have a higher mile per gallon usage then they currently do now," explained Muskingum County Engineer Doug Davis. "This in not just something that is county wide, this is something we're feeling in the grass roots of our county, but this is something nationwide that we're looking at."
Davis has offered options to County Commissioners to help with the funding struggles. It includes increasing the license plate fees or putting a levy on the ballot.
"We want to maintain the roads in a safe condition," said Davis. "Some of them may be chip and seal, some of them might be black top, but we have to constantly look at what is the traffic on that roadway, where are the safety concerns, what is the geometry of the road, what is the level of service that roadway needs for the traffic that is traveling that surface every day."
Commissioners don't agree with raising the license fees and said a bridge and road levy won't make it to the May ballot and would show up on the November ballot if they decide on that action.
"At least they would have a choice versus us just saying we're going to implement a license plate tax fee," said Commissioner Jim Porter. "I would prefer giving the voter's a choice."
The commissioners said they advocate the two sides working together to put money aside for projects.
"We can all improve in saving at some point. It's a matter of priority," said Porter.
The county engineer and commissioners will need to work together to bridge the funding gap as in the next 8 to 10 years they'll need to replace the Philo Bridge. The project is estimated to cost at least $15 million and $3 million of that will be local funds.
The county engineer has provided WHIZ a copy of a spending a projection report given to commissioners. To view that document click on the link found at the left of this article.