Governor’s decision on Ohio Turnpike may come soon

Published 9:25 am Monday, October 8, 2012

COLUMBUS (AP) — A proposal on whether to lease the Ohio Turnpike or get more money out of the toll road some other way is coming soon, Gov. John Kasich said.

The governor said last week that he’s looking at options that could bring the state more than $1 billion, and a formal proposal could be announced within the next month. The Columbus Dispatch reported that it’s believed that the governor’s administration is studying whether to lease the turnpike over a period of years or issuing bonds against it.

“The bottom line is there may be some real money lying out there if we do this thing the right way,” Kasich said on Friday.

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He’s been pushing the idea of using the turnpike that crosses northern Ohio to bring several billion dollars to the state for new road and bridge projects.

Critics, including many elected officials in northern Ohio, say leasing the road could bring higher tolls for drivers and less maintenance on the road.

Kasich tried to ease some of those worries although he said putting a limit on future toll increases would reduce how much money the state could get from allowing a private company to operate the toll road.

He said the state could get enough money to take care of a lot of infrastructure needs for about a decade.

“We’re going to treat northeastern and northern Ohio and northwestern Ohio, we’re going to treat everybody fairly, and they’ll get a big chunk of the money,” he said Friday.

The state has hired consultants to study the turnpike’s future. Options include leasing the turnpike to a private operator, maintaining public ownership and operation, or using a mix of public ownership with part private operation.

The turnpike now operates entirely on its own revenue and is funded through tolls and the sale of gas and food at rest stops. It had $11 million in profits last year.