Could public get their say on Ohio Turnpike future?

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/15/2012

An Ohio House bill would allow the public to provide their input 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 introduced a bill to push for more public input on any lease deals. Awaiting assignment to a House committee is a bill that 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 the people of Ohio helped financed the roadway, and giving up ownership in any manner is wrong.

“I don’t believe it’s in the best interest for the state of Ohio, or the people of Ohio, to sell off state assets,” Gerberry told “Land Line Now.”

Also included in the bill – HB2428 – is a provision to repeal the state budget and transportation directors’ authority to finalize a turnpike lease deal.

“We believe that decision should be made by legislators who represent the citizens of Ohio and not two unelected individuals,” Lundy said.

He 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.

Since the deal was signed, Lundy said that tolls on the Indiana Toll Road have more than doubled, maintenance of the road and rest areas has deteriorated, and the foreign company that leased the turnpike is in danger of defaulting on their loans.

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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Staff Reporter Reed Black contributed to this report.

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