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ODOT Teams With Honda on New Plant, Temporary Bridge Crossing

Wed May 07, 2008 - Midwest Edition
Linda J. Hutchinson

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) recognizes the importance of public-private partnerships. Partnering was the focus at the April 9 kick off of ODOT’s 2008 Central Ohio construction season at one of two Honda plants in Marysville, Ohio.

“We are here at Honda of America Manufacturing in Marysville because the $7 million railroad bridge crossing, funded entirely by the automaker, balances the movement of people and freight, promotes safety, and reduces congestion,” said Thomas J. Wester, ODOT district 6 deputy director.

In addition to showcasing the state’s largest and more unique projects, the April 9 event also spotlighted the department’s efforts to envision a multi-modal transportation system — connecting highways, aviation, railroads, waterways and transit.

In 2007, Honda of America Mfg. Inc. built 701,000 light cars and trucks at two plants in Marysville, Ohio, and 82 percent of those were shipped out by rail, according to Ron Lietzke, assistant manager of media relations. This year, 2,750 cars per day are being shipped from these two plants. Honda operates four of its five plants in Ohio. The fifth plant, Honda Transmission Manufacturing is operated at a separate Honda manufacturing company.

Honda has worked with government for smooth traffic flow and to create a “positive impact on our communities while increasing use of rail yards,” said Lietzke. “This was why we approached the state to do this project.”

Honda was making “changes to the rail yard to expand capacity, which meant more frequent blocking of State Route 739.” In attempts to lessen the impact on the community, Honda timed blockages for late at night. This “disrupts Honda’s efficiency. We must ship by rail at the right time and still maintain traffic flow for the community and emergency vehicles while optimizing the flow of goods out,” Lietzke said.

“We’re using more train cars because of the size of the vehicles [being produced]. We expanded the rail yard, but still needed to go over the road,” said Lietzke.

This type of project, which took two and a half years from conception to completion normally takes seven years, according to Craig Wing, assistant structures division manager of E.S. Wagner, general contractor for the railroad bridge. Funding was in place.

“ODOT engineering [department] gave Honda a list of consulting engineers. We chose Woolpert Engineering of Columbus,” said Andre Tan, engineering coordinator — Company Facilities with Honda and point person for project facilitation with ODOT. “Honda was responsible for the [traffic] blockages,” Tan said.

“The partnering on this project with ODOT, Honda, and E.S. Wagner has been tremendous. The main ODOT personnel, Don Violet and Joe Warino, have been extremely easy to deal with. The same can be said about Andre Tan and everyone from Honda,” said Wing.

“The largest obstacle on this project is the schedule that Honda would like to keep. The project bid in late November 2007, with a completion date of August 2008. This required the installation of temporary pavement during late December and January. It also meant that the main embankments for the bridge overpass had to be started in late March, which is not usually attempted based on the weather in Ohio. A design error was discovered with the MSE [mechanically stabilized earth] wall, which has created a minor delay to the project, but everyone involved worked together to minimize the impact to the project,” Wing said.

Work began in December 2007 and is scheduled for completion in September 2008.

Partnering between Honda and Ohio began in 1977, changing the face of the automotive industry, when Honda became committed to building vehicles close to its customers.

In 1979, the new Honda plant produced its first CR 250 dirt motorcycle in Ohio, made by 64 employees. Today, they employ more than 15,000 at four plants and support facilities in Ohio, two-thirds of Honda’s total U.S. employment. Built in Ohio are a wide range of autos, motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and engines, the Accord, Gold Wing motorcycles, and the Element.

“Ohio is Honda’s North American hub for purchasing and product engineering. And Ohio is the North American center for supplier logistics and the export of automotive parts to Honda operations around the world. The Ohio Center has been responsible for the development of models manufactured by Honda in North America, including such key models as the Acura TL and MDX, the Honda Accord Coupe and Civic Coupe and the Honda Element and Pilot. This research and engineering complex also houses a new $30 million crash-test center that supports our vehicle safety initiatives and high standards for quality and value in our products,” according to its Web site.

Other Honda companies in Ohio include Honda Research and Development, Honda Transmission Mfg., Honda Trading, a service parts and training center, and a soybean processing plant.

Ohio has realized a significant rate of return on its investment to lure Honda to Ohio. A study commissioned in 2003 states that for each $1 invested by Ohio in direct and indirect incentives, Honda has invested $67.

For more information, visit CEG

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