Complete Story


Calfee Update: Ohio GA passes Biennial Transportation Budget Bill - HB 23

MCAO Members: 

Following a 2-month deliberative process, the General Assembly has passed HB 23, the FY 2024-2025 transportation budget bill.  The process was greatly impacted by the February 2, 2023, train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, with many taking the opportunity to discuss rail safety issues during the committee process.  The conference report was unanimously voted out of committee yesterday evening.  The Senate voted unanimously to approve the bill, while the House voted in favor of the bill by a vote of 93-2 (2 members did not vote and 2 seats are vacant).

Notable provisions included in HB 23 include:

  1. Authorizes the Ohio Rail Development Commission to construct and operate intercity conventional or high-speed passenger rail – would allow passenger rail operators, such as Amtrak, to build and provide service along rail corridors identified by the state.
  2. Expands the type of projects that the Ohio Dept. of Transportation (ODOT) can use design-build contracts to include all transportation facilities, not just highways or bridges.
  3. Provides ODOT flexibility to allow contractors to provide multiple construction performance bonds, instead of just one under current law.
  4. Requires any loan made to a small city (pop. Of 5,000 – 24,999) from the State Infrastructure Bank to carry zero interest.
  5. Allows EVs to exceed the statutory gross vehicle weight and axle load limits by not more than 2,000 pounds.
  6. Requires that all spending related to the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project be documented in the state's accounting system (OAKS) and made visible in the Ohio State and Local Government Expenditure Database (the Ohio Checkbook website).
  7. Requires ODOT to obtain Controlling Board approval to spend federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act funds for building or maintaining electric vehicle charging stations.
  8. Beginning January 1, 2024, reduces from $200 to $150, the additional registration fee applicable to plug-in hybrid electric motor vehicles.  The House had proposed a cut to $100 and the Senate had originally eliminated this provision.
  9. Permits the board of the Cincinnati Southern Railway to submit to the voters of the City the sale of the railroad to Norfolk Southern Railway.  The question of the sale can only be submitted to the electors once over the next two years.
  10. Includes a number of rail safety provisions such as requirements on wayside detector systems, requires two-person freight train crews, requires the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and Ohio EPA to compile a written report regarding the transportation of hazardous materials and waste, etc.

One of the most contentious issues that arose during the committee process was the issue of local force account limits.  Force accounts limits refers to the dollar cap that state law puts on the transportation construction projects that local governments are allowed to complete without resorting to competitive bidding by private contractors.  Local governments have long argued that the limits, last changed in 2003, have not kept pace with inflation and have prevented needed but small dollar transportation construction projects from moving forward.  In a comprise, the bill raises all statutory limits by 133% and then allows for those limits to increase annually based on ODOT’s construction cost index, with a 5% cap. 

While the House had added $1 billion for a Rural Highway Fund to support construction projects in 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties, which received significant news coverage at the time, that funding was ultimately not included in the bill. 

The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.  We would expect that to happen quickly so that the bill can become effective in time for the new fiscal year on July 1.

With the transportation budget now concluded, the General Assembly is scheduled to begin a two-week break starting this Friday.  We expect the House to conclude its work on the operating budget bill shortly after they return in mid-April.



Please let us know if you have any questions or would like additional information on any item.


Maryellen K. Corbett
Attorney at Law
614.621.7754 Office
614.621.0010 Fax

Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP
1200 Huntington Center
41 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-3465

Calfee Logo

Printer-Friendly Version