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· October 15, 2012

Kasich Turnpike plan: increase tolls, send money to Columbus

Today, at a meeting of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, representatives from the Ohio Department of Transportation revealed the Kasich administration’s plans to “unlock” the potential of the northern Ohio roadway to fund highway project in other parts of the state. Two scenarios were outlined. One transfers control of the Turnpike to ODOT and issues bonds against the roadway’s future revenue stream, essentially taking a cash advance against future toll collection. The other puts the road in the hands of a private operator who would pay the state an up-front lump sum in exchange for control of the toll revenue for 45 to 55 years. Both scenarios also envision closing at least two maintenance facilities. And, presenters acknowledged that in either case, tolls would have to go up. Turnpike privatization is not popular with Ohioans. A statewide poll conducted last year showed 56 percent opposed the plan compared to only 32 percent in support. The numbers were even worse when residents near the Turnpike were surveyed, with opposition topping out at 65 percent among residents of Northwest Ohio. Apparently aimed at overcoming the objections of local residents opposed to paying higher tolls and having the money redirected to Columbus, Governor Kasich has been out making a promise, namely:
“At least” half the money will go to projects north of US-30.
Innovation Ohio has looked at the promise and finds it a mostly meaningless gesture. That’s because adding up all the counties crossed by US-30 and to its north, you find 48 percent of the state’s population, 42% of its lane miles of roads and 47% of its daily road traffic. In other words, John Kasich has promised to send just over half of the money to just under half of the state. If that’s the bone he’s throwing, it doesn’t have much meat on it. Whatever Kasich is proposing will require legislation, so it seems reasonable to ask how candidates for the Ohio House and Senate will vote on the proposal to increase tolls on northern Ohioans and send the money to Columbus. We look forward to their answers.

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