Ohio’s Turnpike will not be privatized, Governor John Kasich confirmed today at a press conference in Cleveland. As Ideastream’s Brian Bull reports, Kasich unveiled a new proposal that won't involve leasing the 241-mile stretch of roadway.
The Republican governor says under the new plan, the turnpike will raise $1.5 billion by issuing bonds, and devote the bulk of it to fund road projects across northern Ohio. This would be paid back with future toll receipts. Another $1.5 would be generated by matching local and federal funds.
Kasich says this will fast-track necessary road construction and development.
“And connected to all of that of course, is that we’re going to be in a position, where we’re going to create…estimates now, are 65,000 jobs over the course of the next six years,” he said while a group of local officials and lawmakers applauded.
Opponents of privatization feared that it would lead to soaring tolls and neglected maintenance. But Kasich says instead for the next 10 years, tolls will be frozen for E-ZPass motorists driving 30 miles or less on the turnpike, and for those driving further, toll increases will be capped at the rate of inflation.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson - a Democrat – is happy with the plan. He says it will jump start some Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) projects that were originally looking years away from completion.
“Ah, good process, good outcome, good decision, good for Cleveland, good for northeastern Ohio…and I want to thank you governor, for the process and outcome, thank you.”
But other Democrats aren’t so complementary - among them, Chris Redfern, Chairman of the state Democratic Party:
“It was this governor who opposed high-speed rail and the infrastructure investment that President Obama pushed," argues Redfern. "It was this governor who stood in the way of other stimulus projects. And now he comes up with this cockamamie idea that we’re going to somehow increase tolls to pay for building block bridges in Coshocton County through tolls raised on the Ohio turnpike.”
And some county officials from northeast Ohio expressed concern that gas tax revenues would be diverted from their region to pay for projects in other parts of the state.