Kasich supports leasing Ohio turnpikeWritten by Patrick Timmis | | email@example.com
Gov. John Kasich said Monday that he is interested in leasing the Ohio Turnpike to a private operator.
With the probability of a 30 percent cut in federal funds for transportation, the Ohio Department of Transportation will soon have insufficient budget to improve or even maintain the highway, said ODOT Director Jerry Wray.
“We are going to run out of highway funds, I mean unless the Congress does something,” Kasich said. “Come on, waiting for Congress is like waiting for Godot.”
Kasich said even if the state doesn’t lose the federal money, the state should be on the offensive in acquiring new resources for improvements. Should the lease go through, the state would receive both an initial payment and a percentage of tolls collected.
By leasing the turnpike, Kasich said he hopes to put the state in the position to use billions of dollars worth of resources to improve highways, bridges and waterways.
“We have an asset that is very underutilized,” Kasich said. “If we can take this asset and we can lease it, and we can of course make sure we accommodate the concerns of people who are up in this part of the state … then we have a lot of resources. Now, if we have the resources, there’s a lot of good things we can do with it.”
Kasich said he wanted Toledo to be the beneficiary of more commerce. He also encouraged looking at the big picture of economic growth for the state, rather than focusing purely on Northwest Ohio. He wants to avoid a “bidding war” over which parts of the state benefit, he said.
“We are very well aware that there is an emotional attachment, a sense that people have done more than their share up here than any other part of the state, and of course it will have to be taken into consideration,” Kasich said.
Addressing possible concerns, Kasich said revenue from the lease would all go into creating infrastructure, not into balancing the budget or running government agencies, unless an emergency made it necessary.
The state would also limit the amount of increase in the toll price and would maintain strict standards for the turnpike’s upkeep. A potential lease would last no more than 50 years, more likely about 40. Wray said there will be no non-compete clause, which would bar maintenance and improvements to parallel roads.
“When we get to the end, if it’s not a good deal for Ohio, we’ll walk away,” Wray said.
Toledo Mayor Mike Bell supported the governor’s proposal.
“I think it’s very important that people get on board with this concept and idea,” he said. “A lot of people that criticize it, they don’t have a better idea on it.”