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Highway Beautification Causes Controversy In Ohio

November 8, 1999

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The Ohio Department of Transportation wants to add touches of art to drab interstate interchanges. But some people say it's wrong to spend money on beautification when it's needed to repair and maintain bridges.

ODOT officials have been meeting with communities where major bridge and highway projects are being planned to talk about decorating the structures as they are built. Possibilities include using different colors on the bridge overpasses, inlaying symbols or messages into the concrete retaining walls under the bridges, or using creative designs for anti-noise walls.
The agency plans to spend $1.2 million to hire a consultant to come up with standardized plans for enhancing the state's bridges and highways. The money actually used for the beautification projects will be less than 1% of the cost of each project, according to DOT officials.
County engineers, however, point out that there are many bridges in need of repair. Montgomery County, for instance, is only replacing seven or eight of its more than 700 bridges each year, when it should be replacing 11 or 12. In Greene County, 40 to 50 of the 300 bridges need repair.
A national taxpayer watchdog group, the National Taxpayers Union, said the price tag should be painted or chiseled next to each decoration.

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