A large number of truckers heading
across the Ohio Turnpike are getting an $11.45 break on tolls thanks to a bill
signed into law by Gov. Bob Taft.
The new toll rates took effect
Saturday, Jan. 1.
Reductions 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
dropped from $42.45 to $31 – a 27 percent cut.
The lower tolls are a rollback of
the increases that took effect in 1999, leading truck traffic to spill over to
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 18-month trial toll reduction program.
During the next several months,
the commission will determine how successful the pilot program has been and
what the appropriate ongoing toll rates should be.
Taft sought the toll 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
As part of the state’s grand
scheme to get truckers back on the turnpike are efforts to provide better
service for the professional drivers.
Included in future plans for the route
is a large truck stop and service plaza complex for Fulton County to replace
two pairs of smaller plazas in northwestern Ohio.
Suhadolnik, the turnpike’s executive director, told The Toledo Blade the truck-stop proposal is in the preliminary stages, and several sites are
being considered. But a 2005 budget the commission approved last month includes
$1.25 million for site development in Fulton County about a mile west of the
state Route 109 interchange near Delta.
The service plazas near West Unity
and Swanton are the smallest on the turnpike and among the oldest.
“We need to rebuild the
facilities, and we would like to have larger facilities,” Suhadolnik said.
A similar truck-stop plan is in
the works for replacing the turnpike’s easternmost pair of service plazas,
about four miles west of the Pennsylvania border. But that would involve
rebuilding at an existing plaza location, and no facilities would be
Dehrmann said the turnpike sent letters out to potential
truck-stop operators. Staff are now reviewing the responses.
Starting in 1997, the turnpike
rebuilt the four busiest pairs of its service plazas; reconstruction of a fifth
set, the Wyandot/Blue Heron plazas at milepost 76.9 in Sandusky County, is
under way. The rebuilt plazas have larger truck parking areas and multiple
restaurant brands, though except for one “sit-down,” limited-menu restaurant in
each center, service is take-away with food-court seating available. The
Sandusky County plazas’ food service, however, will be food-court only.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor