The Ohio Department of Transportation plans to use $35 million in federal COVID-19 relief aid to fund a series of landslide and rockslide mitigation projects in the eastern and southern parts of the state.
[Above photo by the Ohio DOT]
The agency said it has identified nearly 40 locations in more than a dozen Ohio counties where slips and rockfalls are likely to occur in the near future. Among them is U.S. 33 southeast of Athens, where a $3.3 million project aims to protect a section of the highway used by nearly 9,500 vehicles every day.
“Our highly skilled geotechnical engineers comb the state each day looking for potential hazards and their hard work on this effort is paying off – literally,” noted Jack Marchbanks, Ohio DOT’s director, in a statement. “Investing a little today on these projects will help avoid having to spend a lot tomorrow.”
The funding for those Ohio DOT projects is from $10 billion issued to state departments of transportation as part of a $900 billion COVID-19 relief measure passed by Congress in late December 2020 as part of a final year-end legislative package. Ohio received $333.4 million overall from that relief funding measure, known as the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act.
Landslide and rockslide highway repairs can cost millions of dollars and can take anywhere from weeks to months to complete.
There are broader economic impacts from landslide/rockslide blockage of highways as well. A 34-page study conducted by HDR and Decision Economics for the Appalachian Regional Commission in 2010 found that closures of I-40 and US-64 through Tennessee due to rockslides and resulting travel detours imposed $197 million in economic costs on the surrounding area due to extra travel time and additional vehicle wear and tear.