Ohio Gov. John Kasich announced plans to generate $3 billion for state road projects -- without leasing it or selling it to a private outside concern.
Kasich wants to issue new debt against the 241-mile toll road. The turnpike will remain under the control of a revamped Ohio Turnpike Commission that will work more closely with the state Department of Transportation.
Under the plan announced today by Gov. Kasich, Ohio will keep toll rates in line with inflation, and use the revenue generated to sell bonds to pay for highway and bridge improvements primarily on and near the Turnpike.
The announcement formally put to rest two years of speculation that Kasich could seek to lease the turnpike, notes the Columbus Dispatch.
In January of this year, the Ohio DOT announced a $1.6 billion budget shortfall and had to push back by decades some of the state's largest, most complex transportation construction projects.
The cause of the problem, notes the governor's announcement, is the recent economic decline, combined with more fuel efficient vehicles that use less gas, higher gas prices reducing consumption, and inflation driving up project costs. Additionally, the federal and state motor fuel taxes - Ohio's primary funding source - are not raising as much money as they once did.
The governor emphasized that under this plan, the Ohio Turnpike remains under the full control of the state of Ohio. The program also keeps tolls lower than they likely would have been under a lease program, according to the announcement. The program calls for freezing some local tolls and limiting future toll increases to less than what they have been in the past.
The American Trucking Associations praised the move.
"The Ohio Turnpike is a critical artery for freight, carrying a significant share of the goods produced in America's industrial heartland," ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. "We're happy to see Ohio eschew the dangerous and irresponsible proposal to turn the Turnpike over to private, for-profit entities."
"Gov. Kasich's plan is a much more responsible approach to infrastructure funding than taking a one-time payment and surrendering control of a valuable corridor to a private group," Graves said. "This new plan will almost certainly avoid steep increases in freight transportation costs, as well as the diversion of large trucks onto smaller secondary roads that privatization would have produced."