Ohio lawmakers want to give public a say on turnpike future

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 10/24/2012

If two Ohio state lawmakers get their way, the public would get their say on any lease deal for the Ohio Turnpike.

During the 2011 legislative session, lawmakers sent a two-year, $56 billion budget bill to Gov. John Kasich that included authorization for state officials to pawn off the turnpike. The Republican governor signed the legislation permitting the state to move forward with pursuit of a turnpike lease deal.

Democratic state Reps. Matt Lundy of Elyria and Ronald Gerberry of Austintown announced on Tuesday, Oct. 23, a plan to push for more public input on any lease deals. A bill in the works would require the Turnpike Commission to hold public hearings before any proposed handover of the 241-mile roadway.

The action comes as Kasich is nearing a long-term deal to lease the turnpike, which is made up of Interstates 76, 80 and 90, for as little as $1 billion, according to The Columbus Dispatch. A year ago his administration indicated that they expected to get several billion dollars for the turnpike.

Gerberry said it’s wrong to sell state assets for one-time money.

“The residents of northern Ohio helped finance this incredibly valuable asset, and giving up ownership in any manner is wrong,” Gerberry stated. “Selling off Ohio assets for one-time money is clearly not the right direction.”

Also included in the Democrats’ proposal is a provision to repeal the state budget and transportation directors’ authority to approve a turnpike lease deal.

Lundy said that residents need only to look to their western neighbor as proof that long-term lease deals for infrastructure are a poor idea.

Indiana agreed to a $3.85 billion lease deal with a foreign investor that runs through 2081.

“In the five years since the lease, tolls have more than doubled, maintenance of the road and rest areas has deteriorated greatly, and now the foreign company that leased the turnpike is in danger of defaulting on their loans,” Lundy stated.

OOIDA strongly opposes the long-term lease or sale of infrastructure to private groups. The Association’s “top 12” government affairs objectives includes opposition to the privatization of existing public transportation infrastructure.

Instead, OOIDA’s board of directors is committed to pursuing “solutions to maintain a safe and efficient national highway system through equitable and cost-efficient highway funding.”

To view other legislative activities of interest for Ohio, click here.

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