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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

Low Gas Prices Could Mean Delayed Road Projects

Tony Dejak
Gas USA is selling gas for 97.9 cents a gallon, Monday, March 30, 2020, in Cleveland.

The price of oil plunged last week, and gas prices followed suit. Low prices are great for consumers but are problematic for road construction. Kentucky and Ohio pay for road improvement projects in part with fuel tax revenue. INDOT spokesman Scott Manning says Indiana does too.

"Some of the funding is tied to volume of fuel purchased and then a portion just comes from sales tax. And that is based on price paid at the pump," he says.

Manning says it's not clear yet how low prices will affect the amount of money generated to pay for roads.

"That will impact the long-term ability of, not only INDOT to do projects at the state highway level, but also our cities, towns and counties that receive a portion of gas tax revenue. It's going to impact their construction programs also."

Lighter traffic does have some upsides: Manning says there's less wear and tear on roads, and crews are able to get more done. He says traffic levels are about half what they were.

"In the short term, we're seeing projects move forward and things continue, business as usual on the road construction front, but that impact on revenue, we do anticipate will require not only us but local governments to take another look at our long-term construction program," Manning says.

A spokesman for ODOT says Ohio's fuel taxes aren't tied to the price, but fewer people are driving, and that means less fuel consumption. Matt Bruning says there will be an impact for the state's roads, but they don't know what that impact will be yet.

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.