A Columbus, Ohio-based billboard campaign launched by the state's cement/concrete industry draws attention to Ohio Department of Transportation’s “asphalt escalator” policy. The current bidding system, which is contrary to federal highway recommendations, allows contractors to increase their final bill based on the current price of oil and cost the state nearly $37 million in change orders during 2009-2010. The digital billboards have been placed in nine locations around Columbus.
A new billboard campaign is calling for an end to this outdated, biased procedure. The Great Lakes Regional Office of the Portland Cement Association (PCA) is running the ads to inform the motoring public that the cost of asphalt roads is directly tied to oil prices and keeps increasing as long as Ohio allows escalator clauses in their bidding procedures. “[ODOT] eliminated its use of asphalt cost escalators in 2010, presumably in recognition of their adverse impact on taxpayers,” said Ray McVeigh, executive director, PCA Great Lakes Regional Office. “However, since then, a leading lobbyist for the asphalt industry was appointed ODOT director and now asphalt cost escalators have been re-implemented by ODOT.”
According to a Federal Highway Administration 2011 report, Ohio paid $36,966,000 in change orders due to adjustments in asphalt prices. Four projects received more than $1 million in adjustments and the average adjustment was $81,964. “Imagine you bought a computer on the Internet for $400, and when it shipped, the price rose to $500 due to a change in component costs,” said McVeigh. “As consumers we would not tolerate this and as taxpayers we must not.”