Ohio Turnpike endorses 'no lease' plan

By David Tanner, Land Line associate editor | 12/18/2012

The Ohio Turnpike Commission has unanimously endorsed the “no lease” option for the turnpike, just days after Gov. John Kasich announced the pike would remain in the public domain and not be leased or sold to private investors.

The alternative plan involves issuing $1.5 billion in bonds, a move that could leverage $3 billion in investment and forgo the need for employee layoffs.

OOIDA and truckers were among the most vocally opposed to the concept of leasing the turnpike to private investors. Employee groups, businesses, lawmakers and residents also kept the pressure on against a lease.

Gov. Kasich floated the possibility of a turnpike lease in his budget last year. The state Department of Transportation even used federal transportation funding to study options, including how much money a lease could bring in from the private sector.

But in the end, the study revealed that Kasich did not have to lease the pike to investors, and that the state could issue bonds to pay for reconstruction.

As part of the agreement, Kasich and the state DOT are promising that toll rates will stay at or below the rate of inflation and that local E-ZPass toll rates will be frozen for 10 years.

“Maintaining public control and an independent Turnpike Commission helps keep tolls low and workers on the job,” Turnpike Executive Director Rick Hodges said in a statement. “Under this new plan we can get to work rebuilding the entire Turnpike decades sooner than we once had planned.”

OOIDA supports the decision. The Association has nearly 7,400 members in Ohio and thousands more who use the turnpike daily.

Throughout history, truckers have gone through periods of using and avoiding the Ohio Turnpike, depending on toll rates and speed limits. When tolls got too high a few years ago, truckers left the pike for alternate routes. That forced policymakers to rethink the rate increase and lower the rate for truckers.

See related story:
Gov. Kasich: No sale on Ohio Turnpike

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