Plan To Privatize Ohio Turnpike Shelved
The proposal to sell or lease the Ohio Turnpike to a private operator has been shelved. Private, for-profit entities were interested in purchasing the rights to the Ohio Turnpike from the state in return for a one-time payment to be used to close a gap in the budget for funding highway projects across the state. The governor of Ohio, Republican John Kasich, is planning to meet with constituents across the state to discuss his plan to resolve the budget gap of $1.6 billion.
The plan announced by Governor Kasich would raise nearly $3 billion for the highway budget. Instead of receiving a one-time payment for the sale of the rights to the turnpike, the new plan relies on cost cutting measures and the sale of bonds to raise revenue. The goal is to raise $1.5 billion by selling bonds backed by future toll revenues from the turnpike. Another $1.5 billion would be obtained through matching federal and local contributions.
Opponents of the privatization plan were pleased that the governor chose to go in another direction. Some viewed the proposal to privatize the Ohio Turnpike as dangerous and irresponsible. Supporters view Governor Kasich’s current plan as more fiscally responsible and it allows the state to retain control of an important passageway through the state.
The toll road across the northern part of the state runs from the Midwest to the East Coast. A considerable amount of freight is moved across the turnpike, making it a vital channel for truckers across the nation. Some predicted that privatization of the turnpike would have resulted in higher costs for freight transportation and that many large trucks would switch their routes to smaller, secondary roads to avoid the higher expense of using a privatized turnpike.
Governor Kasich’s plan avoids job losses, toll increases, or maintenance delays on the turnpike. Part of the plan announced by the governor caps truck toll increases and freezes toll rates for short trips paid by EZ Pass for the next ten years. Opponents of the proposal to sell or lease the Ohio Turnpike had often pointed to the possibility of higher tolls and layoffs for current employees in their arguments against the plan.
The head of the American Trucking Association, Bill Graves, expressed approval for the plan. Mr. Graves also announced his intentions of continuing to work with the officials in Ohio to find other ways of funding road and bridge projects while avoiding the privatization of existing toll roads or making the state’s interstate highways toll roads.
The governor also announced plans for some highway projects that have been delayed to be implemented faster than previously thought. The funding gap in the state’s highway budget could have dramatically affected the timetables for future road projects in the state. Now that a plan is in place, these projects can go forward.