Ohio Senate approves $7.6 billion transportation budget bill

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/14/2013

A bill that would increase speed limits on certain roadways and boost tolls on the Ohio Turnpike is nearing passage at the statehouse.

The Senate voted 27-6 on Wednesday, March 13, to advance the state’s omnibus transportation bill to the House for consideration of changes.

One provision that was dropped from the two-year, $7.6 billion budget bill called for increasing truck weights on certain roadways throughout the state. Specifically, the change would have permitted trucks to weigh up to 90,000 pounds on non-interstate and local roads – up from 80,000 pounds.

The Senate Transportation Committee decided to remove the heavy truck provision after a Tuesday hearing to discuss the bill.

Opponents, including the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, provided testimony for lawmakers that said the change would pose a safety hazard. They contend the change would make roadways less safe and increase wear and tear on pavement.

OOIDA Member Andy Young of North Ridgeville, OH, spoke at the hearing. He told lawmakers that shippers and receivers would benefit from the change but small business operators would get stuck with the bill for increased operating and equipment costs.

The committee voted to keep a provision that would allow oversize vehicles traveling without a special permit on the Ohio Turnpike to travel up to two miles from the roadway without a special permit.

The main component in HB51 is a plan to borrow $1.5 billion against the toll road to help pay for road work across the state.

A toll provision added to the bill guarantees that 90 percent of the bond money would be used on northern Ohio roads. Specifically, the money could be used on roads within 75 miles of the turnpike.

“As we invest in our infrastructure, we do more than build better roads; we create a pathway for new businesses,” Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, said in a news release.

In return for the toll road taking on debt, toll rates with increase annually for the next 10 years for many users. Toll rates for E-ZPass users traveling fewer than 30 miles on the turnpike would be frozen for a decade.

Also added to the bill in recent days is a provision to increase speeds by 5 mph for all vehicles on the state’s rural interstates.

State law now authorizes truckers and other drivers to travel 65 mph on the affected roadways. The speed change added to the bill while in committee would change the posted speed limit to 70 mph.

In 2009, truck speeds were increased from 55 mph to 65 mph on the affected roads – the same as other vehicles. In 2011, the Ohio Turnpike implemented a 70 mph limit.

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

Editor’s Note: You are welcome to share your thoughts with us about this story. Comments may be sent to state_legislative_editor@ooida.com.

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