A day after unveiling his final two-year state budget proposal, Gov. John Kasich visited a Dayton-area defense contractor Tuesday to call for greater investment in new technologies, particularly in transportation.
“We’re trying to take (Ohio) into the middle of the 21st century,” Kasich told an audience at Riverside Research, a not-for-profit that works for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and U.S. government agencies. “And I know we’re going to get there with most of this stuff.”
With Jerry Wray, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, and other cabinet members, Kasich argued for investing in “smart mobility,” improved highway infrastructure, drones and other technologies they believe will position the state for the future.
“We’re no longer the rust belt,” Kasich said. “Is Wright-Patt(erson Air Force Base) the rust belt?”
Later he added: “We live in the knowledge belt.”
The visit to Riverside, which works for Wright-Patterson and other government agencies, was meant to demonstrate that. The company’s Hisbiscus Way location underwent a $7 million, 30.000-square-foot expansion in 2015.
Kasich and others spoke within a Riverside lab that houses a 17,000-pound plasma vacuum chamber, which assists in the development of in-space propulsion devices and other applications.
Steven Omick, president and chief executive of Riverside, said the facility serves as an “open innovation center” designed to solve problems for customers.
“The idea is to bring in our government customers and make sure the technology we’re developing is in alignment with their goals,” Omick said.
Wray talked of connecting “smart” roads to vehicles via wi-fi, sensors and fiber optics. He said the U.S. 33 corridor from Dublin to East Liberty would serve as an example of the possibilities, which he and Kasich maintain would lessen crashes.
Kasich’s transportation budget proposes funding for two more “smart highways,” including Interstate 270 around Columbus and I-90 in Northeast Ohio.
The budget also proposes $45 million from the state and other partners for a “Transportation Research Center” in East Liberty, a 4,500-acre complex for testing autonomous vehicles and other highway technologies.
Wray pointed to the potential is there to remake public transportation. As an example, he pointed to a public bus, a cab and a van all visiting the same assisted living facility.
“That’s not efficient,” Wray said.
“Part of my message today is: Don’t miss the technology,” Kasich said.
Both men also spoke of variable speed limits, limits that change with traffic conditions or the time of day.
Seven speakers took the podium before Kasich offered his remarks, but the governor often stood while others were at the podium to ask questions or offer his impromptu thoughts.
At one point, Kasich said he wasn’t sure the state would embrace his investment ideas.
“I’m not sure we’re going to get it done,” he said. “You know why? Ego.”
Legislative debate on the governor’s $144 billion proposed budget starts next week in the Ohio House. Members of the House and Senate must agree on a final spending blueprint by June 30, the final day of the state’s fiscal year.
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