Ohio lawmaker: Want trucks back on the Turnpike? Then unsplit those speeds

| 8/11/2003

After the Ohio Turnpike Commission announced it wanted to bring toll-weary truckers back to the road, it didn’t take one lawmaker long to tell the state agency how to do it.

“We don’t need to spend $250,000 of taxpayer’s money to tell us the obvious,” state Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, wrote in a letter to Gary Suhadolnik, executive director of the Turnpike Commission. “Requiring trucks to drive the same speed on both the Turnpike and secondary roads is an incentive not to use the Turnpike, plus make them pay to do so.”

“Why would any business pay to use a service when they can receive practically the same service at lower cost?” Gibbs added.

Ohio raised tolls by 82 percent in 1995 to pay for work on toll plazas, The Associated Press reported. Ever since then, truck traffic – and toll revenue – has sunk on the turnpike, while truck traffic on smaller roads – and complaints from towns near the toll road – have skyrocketed.

That prompted state officials to seek $250,000 in federal money to pay for most of a study on how to lure the trucks back, The Toledo Blade reported recently.

Gibbs is the sponsor of HB186, a bill that would eliminate the split speed limit in Ohio. The bill has found support from such sources as OOIDA and Julie Cirillo, former chief safety officer of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

In his letter, Gibbs stressed that with split speed limits, the Turnpike offers little allure to truckers.

“It is abundantly clear to many people why the Ohio Turnpike is not used by truckdrivers, whom it is designed for,” Gibbs wrote. “The turnpike is not responsive to the needs of truckdrivers.

“Why pay high tolls to drive the same speed they can on U.S. 20,” he continued. “Since I introduced this piece of legislation in May, my office has been bombarded with phone calls from professional truckdrivers who tell me that they believe this (ending the split speed) is a great idea.”