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· February 5, 2013

Just Where is the New Turnpike Money Going?

Back in December Gov. John Kasich and ODOT Director Jerry Wray rolled out the results of the KPMG analysis and their plan for “unlocking the value” of the Ohio Turnpike.  As part of their plan, Kasich said that they would leverage Ohio Turnpike tolls to float bonds to finance highway construction projects throughout Ohio. As part of this announcement, ODOT said, “more than 90 percent of new bond money will go directly to northern Ohio highway projects.”  KPMG, the consultants that Governor Kasich paid to carry out the analysis of turnpike, said  “virtually all Turnpike funds go to Northern Ohio.” Even prior to the KPMG analysis, Kasich said  “’We’ll make the commitment that at least half the proceeds from a lease or bond would mean we put at least half the money on roads that are north of Route 30. We think that is a fair thing,’” Sounds like a pretty solid promise to continue to dedicate Turnpike funds to Northern Ohio, right? Not so fast. Yesterday when Kasich rolled out his budget, he and Wray were less willing to commit to ensuring these dollars stay in Northern Ohio. Gongwer reported:
On Monday, ODOT Director Jerry Wray said he opposed including the 90% requirement in legislation authorizing the bond proposal. “There are a lot of projects there on our list that are from northern Ohio,” Director Wray said. “So my hope is – and I hope the governor agrees with me – that we don’t set some sort of arbitrary number or percentage, but that we look at how are we going to benefit the transportation system in this state. Gov. Kasich didn’t comment directly on the 90% requirement Monday, but he said northern Ohio residents shouldn’t worry that their highway needs will be left unaddressed.
Today in Budget Director Tim Keen’s testimony he said, “The availability of these additional highway dollars, primarily for use in northern Ohio, will  permit ODOT to apply its traditional funding sources to accelerate completion of high-priority projects throughout the rest of the state.” With the budget roll out, Kasich is no longer willing to commit a majority of  Turnpike dollars directly to Northern Ohio and the Turnpike dollars they do send there are going to be used to supplant previous transportation dollars that had been spent there. Tomorrow, Wray is set to testify to the Finance Committee. Hopefully someone can remind him of the promises the Kasich administration has already made.

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