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Here's what Athens' state senator has accomplished at the statehouse so far

Four months into his time at the statehouse, Sen. Frank Hoagland's primary focus has been on keeping Ohio's 27,000 bridges functioning properly.

The Republican from Mingo Junction introduced a bill last month to renew funding for the Ohio Bridge Partnership Program, which was set to expire this summer. That program has helped completely replace nine bridges in Athens County alone, Jeff Maiden, the engineer for Athens County, said.

"Without the program, we would not have been able to replace those bridges," Maiden said. "We were also able to repair a number of bridges."

Hoagland's legislation passed after it was incorporated into the state's transportation budget, which Gov. John Kasich signed last week.

"It's an initiative we can take now," Hoagland said. "Being in the military, guys understand the importance of doing repairs to the equipment. I don't care what it is — bridges, anything — it will prolong the life of any piece of equipment."

The legislation that Hoagland originally sponsored was solely to fund the repair of bridges throughout the state. Ohio has more bridges than any state besides Texas, and as of last year 6,647 of those bridges are considered to be structurally deficient or functionally obsolete by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Despite the replacement of nine bridges in Athens County, there is still a lot of work to be done. Maiden said that in 2014, 65 bridges in the county were determined to be structurally deficient, and 102 are functionally obsolete. Some of those bridges have been repaired or replaced, but the problem still persists.

In 2013, Kasich established the Ohio Bridge Partnership Program to replace and repair deficient bridges. In order for a bridge to qualify, it had to be at least 20 feet in length, determined to be structurally deficient, in use and have no other sources of funding.

The program was set to expire in June of this year. Hoagland's legislation extended the program through the end of the 2019 financial year.

"You're not going to get anywhere if the bridges are out," Hoagland said. "If we can repair bridges before they need to be replaced, we'll save taxpayers a lot of money."

Hoagland also supported legislation that would increase the transportation budget for the 2018-2019 financial year. But a $48 million increase for improvement of local bridges and roads was stripped from the budget when the legislation was sent back to the House because it could prevent Ohio Department of Transportation projects from receiving federal funding.

Athens County Commissioner Lenny Eliason said the state was not doing enough to provide for transportation infrastructure, even with the continuation of the Ohio Bridge Partnership Program. He said the state has not increased funding for the transportation budget, even as local governments' buying power has decreased due to inflation.

"They need to come up with a long-term solution to properly and adequately fund the transportation needs of the citizens," Eliason said. "They continue to kick the can down the road, both nationally and at the state level."

@torrantial

lt688112@ohio.edu

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