Ohio governor OKs lower tolls; most truckers to pay 27 percent less

| 12/23/2004

Gov. Bob Taft signed legislation this week to decrease tolls for large trucks on the Ohio Turnpike.

The new toll rates could take effect as early as Jan. 1.

Reductions will vary from about 2 percent for Class 4 trucks to 57 percent for Class 9 trucks.

For Class 8 trucks, the toll to travel the length of the 241-mile route between Indiana and Pennsylvania will drop from $42.45 to $31.

The lower tolls are a rollback of increases that took effect in 1999, leading truck traffic to spill over to smaller roads.

The new law – previously HB406 – authorizes the Ohio Department of Transportation to make a one-time payment of $23.4 million to the Turnpike Commission to offset lost revenue that may result from the temporary change, which is scheduled to last until summer 2006.

Commission members asked that a report be made at their January 2006 meeting “on the traffic and revenue impact of the temporary toll reductions in order that the commission may evaluate the effectiveness of the trial program.”

Taft sought the reduction, along with an increase in truck speed limits from 55 mph to 65 mph along the turnpike, as part of a plan to steer trucks off overloaded two-lane roads and back onto the toll road.

Since the speed increase took effect Sept. 8, Lauren Dehrmann, a turnpike spokeswoman, said the route has seen large truck traffic increase by about 9 percent.

The new law also allows the commission to decrease toll rates without holding a public hearing.

State law now requires at least three public hearings and a public comment period of 90 days preceding toll changes.

In addition, the measure bans the use or possession of devices used to change some traffic signals from red to green. Violators could face up to six months in prison.

The portable signal pre-emption devices are intended to allow police, fire and other emergency officials to clear intersections before they approach, but are commonly sold on the Internet and catalogs.