Ohio ponders … to lease or not to lease?

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 10/23/2012

Leasing the Ohio Turnpike to private investors is just one of several options still on the table for Gov. John Kasich, a spokesman says.

Truckers have a number of reasons to be concerned with a lease because of what happened to the adjoining Indiana Toll Road to the west.

For starters, the lease of the Indiana Toll Road in 2006 allowed truck tolls to more than double from $14 to $32 in the first five years.

“Tolls are not going to double like they did in Indiana,” Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Steve Faulkner told Land Line on Monday, Oct. 22.

Faulkner says the reason is because toll rates in Ohio have kept up with or exceeded inflation in recent years whereas Indiana went two decades without raising tolls.

The consulting firm of KPMG is working on at least three options for the Ohio Turnpike to present to officials at the end of the year.

There’s the “do nothing” approach, Faulkner says, there’s the lease, and there’s an option to roll turnpike operations into ODOT.

All the talk seems to favor a lease since Gov. Kasich revealed to the press that he’d take no less than $1 billion for the 241-mile turnpike.

If that sounds like a lot of money, it’s not in the grand scheme. In fact, that’s equivalent to just one year’s worth of federal funding that Ohio currently receives and a fraction of the $3.85 billion that Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels got for the Indiana Toll Road.

OOIDA opposes the long-term lease or sale of public infrastructure to private investors. Leases strongly favor the investor over the tollway user. A prime example is the “non-compete” clause in the Indiana Toll Road lease that prevents the state from improving or upgrading nearby roads that could compete for traffic. Another concern is duration. The Indiana Toll Road lease – again as the flagship example – does not expire until 2081.

Ohio has yet to answer those concerns.

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