Posts Tagged 'Turnpike'

Reps. Lundy & Gerberry Introduce Bill to Requiring Public Input on Possible Outsourcing of Turnpike

State Reps. Matt Lundy (D- Elyria) and Ronald V. Gerberry (D- Austintown) will soon be introducing legislation to require the Ohio Turnpike Commission to hold four public hearings within three months of the bill being enacted on the issue of outsourcing the maintenance and operation of the Ohio Turnpike. The public hearings would be held in geographically diverse locations in the state that are within the immediate vicinity of the Ohio Turnpike.

“Ohioans in communities all along the Turnpike are outraged at the Governor’s apparent plan to privatize the Turnpike without even allowing for public input,” said Rep. Lundy.  “The turnpike has created jobs for many in the local communities surrounding it throughout the years, helping to support the local economy. Privatizing the Turnpike could cost jobs, hurting those very same communities.”

The bill would also amend and repeal certain sections of the Revised Code to eliminate the authority of the Director of Budget Management and the Director of Transportation in regard to Ohio Turnpike-related outsourcing contracts.  

“The residents of northern Ohio helped finance this incredibly valuable asset and giving up ownership in any manner is wrong. Selling off Ohio assets for one time money is clearly not the right direction for our great state,” said Rep. Gerberry. “Ohioans deserve better leadership and a Governor who will listen to their needs and concerns.”

Furthermore, upon the conclusion of the last hearing, the Commission shall compile any materials submitted to it during the hearings and prepare a report that summarizes the comments of persons who appeared at the hearings. The Commission shall present the report to the Governor and the presiding officers and minority leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives not later than thirty days after the date of the last hearing.

“We need to look no further than to our neighbors in Indiana to see what will happen if we privatize the Ohio Turnpike,” said Rep. Lundy. “Indiana struck a $3.8 billion, 75-year lease deal with a foreign vendor for its 151-mile toll road. In the five years since the lease, tolls have more than doubled, maintenance of the road and rest areas has deteriorated greatly, and now the foreign company that leased the turnpike is in danger of defaulting on their loans.”

Gov. Kasich is seeking to privatize the Ohio Turnpike for 50 years at an estimated $3 billion. This one-time cash infusion would cost the state a valuable source of annual revenue.  The revenue from a potential privately run Turnpike could also leave the state, as many private operators are based on Wall Street or overseas. The Ohio Turnpike has helped support local economies for years by creating and maintaining jobs.  Communities fear privatization will cause drastic increases in toll costs, and the 241 mile road that stretches Northeast Ohio—through the Snowbelt—will not be as well maintained.

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Gov. Kasich’s “Toll road for lease” plan hits bump in the road

The Kasich administration has been moving full speed ahead in privatizing state assets and the most recent target is the Ohio Turnpike, the 241 mile toll road that runs the entire length of the northern end of the state.  The Governor’s attempt at selling the state to private corporations has received no shortage of criticism across the state from lawmakers, citizens and editorial boards.  

Last week, Gov. Kasich’s plan hit a new speed bump.  The Governor had planned to use federal funding in part of his plan to privatize the Turnpike.  However, Ohio’s Democratic congressional delegation sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood challenging Kasich’s authority to utilize federal resources to advance his privatization agenda.  After review Secretary LaHood determined that federal resources may not be used for such purposes.

State Representatives along the Turnpike applauded Secretary LaHood’s decision and the work of Ohio’s Democratic congressional delegation.  Ohio House Assistant Minority Leader Matthew A. Szollosi of Toledo said, “The Ohio Turnpike belongs to the people of the State of Ohio, and that should not change simply because Gov. Kasich wants a one-time infusion of cash for use by his administration.   Based on what has happened in Indiana, motorists can expect a significant increase in tolls, maintenance of the turnpike will deteriorate, and toll workers can expect pink-slips.  Privatization of the Ohio Turnpike is a bad idea.”

State Rep. Teresa Fedor also from Toledo had this to say about the Governor’s plan, “Governor Kasich’s scheme to privatize the Turnpike has cost Ohio millions in revoked funds.  Federal Transportation officials said the Kasich administration misused the funds in a reckless effort to privatize the Ohio Turnpike.  If Gov. Kasich succeeds tolls will rise, and traveling commuters, truckers and others who use the Turnpike will essentially pay an un-voted tax increase.  Those who stand to benefit the most are the investment bankers who could make a killing off this scheme.  Gov. Kasich needs to quit putting Wall Street bankers ahead of Ohio voters.”

Then over the weekend the Toledo Blade published another editorial criticizing Gov. Kasich’s privatization of the state.  Excerpts of the editorial follow:

“The rush to cash in on leasing the Ohio Turnpike hit a bump in the road last week. It won’t stop Gov. John Kasich’s administration, but it does keep the issue in the public eye and make it less likely that Ohioans will wake up one morning to find that they no longer control the toll road they paid for.

“Mr. Kasich has made no secret of his desire to privatize the turnpike, along with liquor profits, prisons, and other state assets…

“…In the long run, leasing money-making enterprises will cost the state billions of dollars in revenue that will need to be replaced. In the case of the turnpike, many Ohioans also are concerned that tolls will rise, as many as 1,000 jobs will be lost, and turnpike maintenance will suffer. If that happens, more traffic — especially big trucks — will use parallel secondary roads, increasing maintenance costs and making those roads less safe.

“Last week, several Democratic members of Ohio’s congressional delegation who oppose the turnpike lease plan questioned the use of federal highway funds to explore lease opportunities…

The [Kasich] administration’s initial request said vaguely that a federal grant would be used to study how leasing assets works in other states, without mentioning the Ohio Turnpike at all. It deserved to be turned down as a ham-handed attempt to game the system.

“If the governor continues to believe leasing the turnpike is a good idea, let him come up with a transparent source of funding to study the issue — although preferably not by putting his hands in the pockets of local governments again. Commission a full, nonpartisan examination at least as comprehensive as a preliminary study released last March by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, which concluded that leasing the turnpike had little benefit and a lot of “likely negative outcomes.”

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Read the full editorial here.


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