U.S. DOT Revokes Ohio Turnpike Privatization Study Funding

October 10, 2011

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The Obama administration has reversed an earlier decision to provide $1.5 million to Ohio to study the economic benefits of privatizing the Ohio Turnpike.

The Federal Highway Administration cut off federal money just three days after five Ohio Democratic members of Congress called the study "a questionable use of federal taxpayer dollars." In a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood the group, including Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles), warned that leasing the Turnpike to a private sector concern could lead to higher tolls and the possible loss of 1,000 jobs.

The federal money was apparently revoked in response to that letter.

"I am absolutely opposed to the state of Ohio's misguided attempt to misuse these federal funds for its radical plan to privatize the Ohio Turnpike," Ryan said in a press statement. "It's disappointing that during this rush to privatize the turnpike, the state attempted to misuse these federal funds for a plan that could potentially cost drivers through significantly increased tolls, threaten the job security of over 1,000 Ohioans, and drive up costs for local governments through increased maintenance costs for local roads. Federal money should be used to create jobs, not eliminate them."

The decision by the Obama administration came as a setback to Gov. John Kasich, who has considered the possibility of leasing the turnpike to private companies for as much as $3 billion. He'd like to lease out the turnpike for 30 years and use the money to fix other roads.

The Ohio Department of Transportation blamed the turnabout on politics, which the Federal Highway Administration denied.

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