Ohio speeds, toll rates set to rise

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Friday, March 22, 2013

A bill to increase speed limits 5 mph on rural interstates and boost tolls on the Ohio Turnpike is headed to the governor.

House and Senate lawmakers this week approved the state’s omnibus transportation bill after working out their differences. The two-year, $7.1 billion budget bill includes Gov. John Kasich’s plan to borrow $1.5 billion against the turnpike to help pay for road work across the state.

The main component in HB51 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 recent news release.

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

Also included in the bill 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.

Other speed changes in the budget bill include setting the maximum speed for urban interstate outer belts such as Interstate 675 around Dayton and I-275 around Cincinnati at 65 mph – up from 60 mph.

Freeways in congested areas could be set at 55 mph. Speeds on two-lane highways outside of cities would also increase to 60 mph from 55 mph.

One provision that Senators dropped from the bill called for increasing truck weights. 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 hearing that included testimony from OOIDA Member Andy Young. The North Ridgeville, OH, resident 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 bill does include a provision to 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.

Another provision in the bill requires stop signs, or yield signs, at all rail crossings where lights or gates do not exist. Discretion on the use of signs will be left up to the Ohio Department of Transportation.

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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