State designation may mean more funding for Champaign, Logan counties

The Logan-Union-Champaign Regional Planning Commission recently received a new designation that could open up more avenues for funding local projects in the future.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich designated the LUC as an Ohio Regional Transportation Planning Organization in February. The LUC, among other duties, is charged with review and approval of subdivisions in unincorporated areas in Logan, Union and Champaign counties, as well as making recommendations to township zoning commissions concerning zoning amendments.

The LUC was one of a handful of rural commissions selected as part of a two-year pilot program to give rural planning commissions more say in what projects will provide the best value for the region.

The designation comes after the LUC completed a Regional Transportation Plan for Logan and Champaign counties last year, and it could eventually lead to more funding opportunities, according to Stephen McCall, Champaign County engineer and president of the LUC’s executive committee.

In previous years, metro areas in Ohio could compete for additional state funding for some transportation projects, but many rural areas were locked out. The designation will allow the LUC to take a more active role in the regional transportation planning process, McCall said.

“Hopefully in the future there will be money that will be available, and these regional planning commission groups can apply for some grants for projects,” McCall said.

The Ohio Department of Transportation opened the pilot program in 2013, allowing the LUC to partner with the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission to create and update a transportation plan for the region, said Dave Gulden, LUC director. That work was finalized last year, and the LUC is now in the process of implementing the plan.

“It formalizes the legitimacy of our efforts, and it leads us into the two-year scope of work that we’re in now,” Gulden said of the designation.

Those proposals included a roughly $22 million proposal to add two additional lanes to U.S. 68 between Springfield-Urbana Pike and the city of Urbana’s corporation limits, for example. Funding is not guaranteed, but the designation and plan does give the region a leg up if funding does become available, Gulden said.

One project in the works will include gathering more data in the Indian Lake area in Logan County. The LUC will study the impact of seasonal traffic near the lake and how it affects the area’s transportation system. Next year, the LUC will likely conduct a freight study including U.S. 68 to examine transportation needs along that corridor, Gulden said.

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