Traffic drops on Ohio Turnpike; officials blame economy

| 11/16/2007

Traffic on the Ohio Turnpike is down slightly in 2007, officials say, and the economy is the biggest reason.

Ohio Turnpike Spokeswoman Lauren Hakos told Land Line that so far in 2007 miles traveled on the pike are down 1.8 percent, truck traffic is down 1.1 percent, and the turnpike has brought in 3.3 percent less revenue than it was predicted to generate.

High fuel prices and other economic factors mean fewer people are taking the turnpike, she said. The downturn has led to a delay in some construction projects, too, such as upgrades to two service plazas.

“In the end, when (fuel) prices are high and people are making fewer trips in general, we feel the effects of that,” Hakos said.

Truckers agree. They say increasing fuel cost is a big reason contributing to the cut back.

“I don’t know how some of these guys are even running their trucks right now,” OOIDA member Alan Smith of Alan Smith Trucking, Republic, OH, told Land Line. “You’re paying $3.40 for fuel and getting paid $1.50 a mile. I don’t know how they do it.”

Smith said he is fortunate to be hauling specialty loads and oversize loads.

“I’ve got a lot of friends driving truck and I know the rates they’re hauling freight for,” Smith said. “They might average better mileage than I am, but I don’t know how they’re making their payments.”

Revenue on the Ohio Turnpike so far in 2007 is down $7.2 million from the projected $220 million the commission budgeted.

A Class 8 truck pays $33.50, or about 14 cents per mile, to travel the 241-mile turnpike.

Hakos said the last official rate increase was Jan. 1, 1999. In 2005, the turnpike commission rolled back tolls by about 25 percent for vehicle Classes 4 through 9.

In need of revenue, the commission voted to raise rates slightly in January 2007, but not all the way back to the 1999 rates, Hakos said.

State and federal taxes amount to 52.4 cents per gallon for diesel fuel in Ohio, just below the national average of 52.9 cents per gallon. Both figures include the federal excise tax of 24.4 cents per gallon.

Seventeen states rank higher than Ohio in combined state and federal per-gallon taxes.

Smith said by comparison, the Ohio Turnpike isn’t as expensive to run as the New York Thruway or the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

“I like traveling it for the simple purpose I can drive 65,” he said about Ohio. “It depends on how fast I want to get home.”

His hometown is about 20 miles from the turnpike, which also plays into his decision.

– By David Tanner, staff writer