Gov. John R. Kasich embarked on a two-day state tour as he, Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jerry Wray, Ohio Turnpike Director Rick Hodges and others unveil a first-of-its-kind plan to generate about $3 billion for highway road construction without leasing the Ohio Turnpike and without Turnpike employee layoffs.
The Ohio Jobs and Transportation Plan would generate $1.5 billion in new funds for Ohio highways from bonds issued by the Ohio Turnpike Commission and backed by future toll revenues. Up to an additional $1.5 billion could be generated from matching local and federal funds coming to a combined total of approximately $3 billion for Ohio’s major highway construction projects.
“This plan just makes sense as we continue Ohio’s economic resurgence, grow jobs and make our state prosperous once again,” Kasich said. “Billions of dollars in new highway funds further strengthens Ohio’s jobs-friendly climate and keeps our state moving by delivering more projects faster.”
“Bonding against future Turnpike revenue generates enough money to erase our highway budget deficit,” Wray said. “Combined with ODOT’s work to reduce our cost of doing business and improve service to the state’s motoring public, this plan puts the resources we need into our major construction budget.”
Details of the Ohio Jobs and Transportation Plan include:
· No long-term, private lease;
· A continued public, independent Turnpike with expanded authority and renamed the “Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission”;
· More than 90 percent of new bond money will go directly to northern Ohio highway projects, including the Turnpike itself;
· Rebuilding the Ohio Turnpike will occur decades sooner than planned;
· Tolls for local trips paid with an EZ Pass are frozen for 10 years;
· All other toll rates are capped at inflation, which is significantly less than historic toll increases;
· No Turnpike employee lay-offs are anticipated.
“Maintaining public control and an independent Turnpike Commission helps keep tolls low and workers on the job,” Hodges said. “Plus, with this new plan we can get to work rebuilding the entire Turnpike decades sooner than we once had planned.”
"As a businessman very interested in economic development in the region and the entire state, I'm extremely pleased with the governor's plan," said Dan White, president of Norwalk Furniture. "Living near the turnpike I am very much aware of the essential role it plays in this region. The decision to preserve the integrity of the turnpike while also coming up with an innovative way to fund other critical projects should be applauded."
ODOT has cut the agency’s $1.6 billion highway budget deficit by $400 million thanks to new savings and operational efficiencies, but more money and more innovation is needed. Money generated from the Ohio Jobs and Transportation Plan will help fill budget deficit without raising taxes that would kill jobs. The launch of the new plan concludes a year-long study of options for better using the revenue generated by the Ohio Turnpike.
A copy of the complete study is available by clicking here.
Of all the possible scenarios regarding the future of the Ohio Turnpike that have been put forth in the past year, the Ohio Trucking Association (OTA) officials say they believs Governor Kasich has chosen the best one for all travelers in the state.
"I'm gratified that as a trade association representing a major user of the turnpike, we have had many opportunities to voice our concerns with the Ohio Turnpike Commission, ODOT, KPMG, and the Governor's Office," said OTA President Larry Davis. "They listened to us and that means a lot."
The association, which represents more than 900 trucking and supplier companies throughout the state, believes that the Ohio Turnpike is too great an asset to turn over to an outside company for lease or purchase.
"We have a top‐notch turnpike now with a stable and fairly predictable funding source," Davis said. "It makes more sense to leverage the value of what we already have to better our state's roads and bridges than to roll the dice on an outside operator who may not have the best interests of efficient transportation in mind."
Davis added that the Ohio Trucking Association looks forward to working with all of the governmental entities involved in moving The Ohio Jobs and Transportation Plan from conception into reality.