Monday, July 13, 2009

Response from Ohio Department of Transportation

Here is the very timely response received from the Ohio Department of Transportation (in blue):

Thank you for your recent public records request and inquiry to the Ohio Department of Transportation regarding the historic investments in Ohio's transportation system, made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As you suggest to readers of [], ODOT is more than willing to provide information to the public we serve. If I read correctly, you have asked a series of questions, instead of making a public records request. I believe I can answer your questions, though:

The Ohio Department of Transportation continues to oversee and monitor more than $1.1 billion in transportation stimulus funds directed to Ohio through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). As part of a commitment to transparency and accountability, projects in Ohio that are funded with stimulus dollars are being recognized with signage that shows taxpayers where ARRA funds are being invested and where recovery is taking place.

The ARRA signs at stimulus-funded construction projects are paid for with stimulus funds only - not state funds. ODOT does not make the signs for the construction projects; contractors are responsible for producing and placing the signs, similar to how they are required to place construction, detour, and safety signs, along with orange barrels and cones, throughout a construction zone. The cost of producing and placing the signs is included in a contractor’s bid on a project, and is often included as part of the overall cost of producing and placing signage and traffic control devices.

The cost of each sign varies by project and by contractor, as the sign is produced at the contractor's expense. A contractor that can produce its own signs or is producing signs at more than one location would have a lower cost. It’s estimated that each sign is approximately $300 in materials. The signs were designed in consultation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in compliance with the national Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devises. The US Dept. of Transportation and FHWA have asked all states to recognize projects made possible by the ARRA with this type of signage.

Since the start of the stimulus, ODOT has been committed to an Open and Transparent, Consistent and Accountable Process for investing stimulus funds. These signs provide Ohioans with clear designations as to which projects are receiving stimulus funds. This use of stimulus funds to produce signs is putting Ohioans to work - similar to how the increased production of asphalt and purchase of steel for highway and bridge projects are putting people to work at many plants and factories. While difficult to measure, these indirect jobs are a significant element to the success of the Recovery Act.

If you need additional documentation, you may want to clarify those documents in any follow up records request you might have. Otherwise, please feel free to contact me with any question you or your readers might have.

THANKS, Scott Varner, Deputy Director/Communications Director, Ohio Department of Transportation


OK - so the contractors prepare the signs themselves (or contract to have the signs created) at an estimated cost of $300 per sign, or possibly less if done in volume. And the cost is simply passed on through the contractors' bids to the federal stimulus funds. One new question might be: if the signs cost the contractor $300, do they mark up that $300 when billing the government, or charge labor for installation/teardown, such that the per-sign cost is even more? And even at $300/sign, the national cost for all these signs would still be very significant. Regardless, it does appear that we - the taxpayers - are paying for the signs, though indirectly through the contractors themselves.

Note additionally that one justification for having the signs was that the creation of the signs, in an of itself, is stimulus.

Does that raise any new discussion/questions?


  1. YES, is the present hill reduction done with stimulus funds or not? Can you find out?

  2. Yes - the 36 hill reduction is definitely being paid with stimulus funds: here's the link if you're interested...

  3. In my humble estimation, $150,000 of stimulus money to lower the hill on US 36 is infinitely better spent than the $500,000 on the Greenville traffic circle.

  4. I don't see a problem with posting the signs in question. They show that the stimulus dollars are being used for good. Actually, they remind me of the numerous WPA and CCC signs that are still around from the 30's. The project at 36 and Bears Mill is especially needed. The project will result in a safer intersection while providing jobs during the actual construction. Sometimes I think we look too hard for something to complain about.

  5. I don't see the need to advertise that the government is spending money, we all know who is paying for the road work (taxpayers). To have an additional expense of $300 (or more) is just more insult.
    A prefect example of wasted tax dollars is the traffic circle, instead of replacing something that needs it, such as work on the city park lagoons that needed repairs, they rip out perfectly good curbs, sidewalks and trees only to rebuild them and add more energy consuming street lamps (17 lamps is what I heard). It will probably be so brite we could play nitetime ball games around the circle. None of this will probably help the taxpayers of Greenville or bring in more jobs or businesses.


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