Governor appoints Dingus to TRAC committee

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 21, 2003

Already a man of many titles, Dr. Bill Dingus just added a new one to the list.

Gov. Bob Taft named Dingus to serve on the state's Transportation Review Advisory Council that oversees the fair distribution of state transportation funds.

Dingus, executive director of the Greater Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, will serve a three-year term on the board.

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"I feel good about (the opportunity). I have always said during my 25 years with OUS that I have driven a million miles through southeast Ohio. There is probably not a road that I have not been on. …," Dingus said. "I feel very good to sit on the council and help make the plans. Of course, you always have more plans than you have money.

"Transportation is fundamental to development. …" he said. "Advanced development happens near interstates and highways. Without question, transportation, good roads and easy, safe access are all fundamental to an area's development."

The Transportation Review Advisory Council, created by the Ohio General Assembly in 1997 to bring a fair, numbers-driven system to choosing major new transportation projects, is composed of the ODOT director Gordon Proctor and eight appointees. The governor names six members; the president of the Ohio Senate names one and the speaker of the Ohio House names one.

"Historically, Ohio decisions were often made politically. Ten to 12 years ago, they came up with this committee to make the decisions based on information, not politics," Dingus said. "It is probably the most systematic way to do it."

The TRAC currently has 96 projects under construction, or to be constructed, totaling $7.6 billion.

Dingus attended the first meeting last week and was impressed with members of the TRAC. The committee wasted no time and tentatively approved the $3.7 billion project list for major new projects for 2005-2010.

The draft project list will be subject to a 90-day public comment period before the TRAC approves a final list in May.

Excluding bridges, a major new project is one that will cost ODOT more than $5 million and do one or more of the following: reduce congestion, increase mobility, provide connectivity, increase a region's accessibility for economic development. In general, the TRAC puts a priority on state and federal highways.

Numerous projects were funded for this cycle and include upgrades in Cleveland, Nelsonville and others. The Portsmouth bypass was on the list with a funding commitment of $8 million in 2005.

One project of local interest that was added to the list but not funded is an upgrade to the U.S. 52 access at Haverhill where the Sun Coke plant will be built. Just making the list is a positive step forward in the slow process because the days of just deciding where to build a road and getting started are long gone, Dingus said.

"Just to get on the list and moved into the cycle is key and the first step," he said.

A complete list of the projects receiving funding can be viewed at the TRAC's Web site at