TMACOG resolution supports turnpike legislation, proposalWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) presented a proposed resolution to its executive committee March 20 that would support expanding the Ohio Turnpike Commission’s authority to issue $1.5 billion in bonds to finance both turnpike and other transportation projects in the state.
“The turnpike is a critical feature in the overall economic competitiveness of our region. Because of the turnpike’s importance, TMACOG staff prepared a resolution that will be submitted to the Executive Committee at the March 20 meeting,” TMACOG President Anthony Reams said in a statement provided to Toledo Free Press.
Fundamentally, the TMACOG resolution supports the expanded bonding capacity of the turnpike, Reams said.
It is widely acknowledged that the cost of providing multimodal mobility for people and goods far exceeds the resources currently available in Ohio. Traditional funding sources generated through state and federal fuel taxes and fees are not sufficient to meet the safety, maintenance and improvements demands of the state’s transportation system, according to TMACOG.
The result is a dramatic shortfall in transportation funds for major new projects scheduled for construction (tier one) and others still in development (tier two). The shortfall for tier one projects is estimated at $1.6 billion and for tier two projects nearly $10 billion, according to the Ohio Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC).
The situation led to Gov. John Kasich’s proposal, the Ohio Jobs and Transportation Plan, to expand the ability of the Ohio Turnpike Commission (OTC) to issue bonds against future revenue and use the proceeds for highway construction projects beyond the turnpike.
The governor’s plan would address the shortfall in funds for transportation infrastructure, which is desperately needed in Ohio, Reams said.
The 130th General Assembly is considering legislation, House Bill (HB) 51, to enact the legislative changes required to enable implementation of the governor’s proposal. Many policy and rule changes administered by both the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and newly formed Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC) will need to be developed for its implementation.
Ohio House of Representatives passed HB 51 on Feb. 28 with bipartisan support and it moved to the Ohio Senate for its consideration. It would allow turnpike toll revenue generated through the newly renamed OTIC to pay for infrastructure projects related to public highways.
The Senate voted 27-6 to approve HB 51 on March 15 with some changes. All three senators from Northwest Ohio, Edna Brown (D-Toledo), Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) and Cliff Hite (R-Findlay), voted in favor of the bill with all six negative votes coming from Senate Democrats.
The House and Senate versions of the bill are currently in conference and one bill is expected to emerge from the two versions.
HB 51 would use turnpike toll revenues to support the issuance of $1.5 billion in bonds that, when matched with local and federal funds, would provide $3 billion for road and bridge projects to meet the needs of the state, with special emphasis on projects in northern Ohio.
The plan would direct $70 million of the bond proceeds to speed up the replacement of the turnpike’s base pavement, which includes portions of the roadway which have not been repaired or repaved since its completion nearly 60 years ago, according to the OTC.
In the Northwest Ohio region, the bonds should accelerate several major programs, changing the timeline in some cases from 20 years to six, Reams said.
The top of TMACOG’s priority list includes widening I-75 to three lanes in each direction from I-280 in North Toledo to Findlay, and building out the second phase of the I-75/I-475 interchange known as the “Jeep Split.”
Reams reported that the TMACOG resolution makes several recommendations in regard to the proposed legislation and administrative procedures that would necessarily result from the legislation.
“For example, we need to target spending on projects that foster economic development and job creation, provide a net gain for northern Ohio in terms of overall transportation funding, and assure Northwest Ohio representation in future decision-making processes,” Reams said.
TMACOG’s resolution would recommend representation of Northwest Ohio on the OTIC and TRAC by the appointment of at least one individual who resides in Northwest Ohio.
Since the turnpike is a key passenger and freight transportation facility in Northwest Ohio, citizens, business people, transportation professionals and policymakers in the TMACOG region have a particular interest in the governor’s proposal, said Warren Henry, vice president of transportation for TMACOG.
Northern Ohioans, who use the turnpike for business and personal travel, have a significant stake in changes to future toll policy and the ongoing condition and service level of the turnpike, Henry said.
If its executive committee approves the proposed resolution, TMACOG would forward it to the leadership in the House and Senate, sources at ODOT, OTC, metropolitan planning organizations participating in the Ohio Association of Regional Councils and elected state and federal officials serving the TMACOG membership region.
Rick Hodges, executive director of the OTC and a Fulton County native, was scheduled to deliver the keynote address at the 19th Transportation Summit hosted by TMACOG on March 22 at the Holiday Inn French Quarter in Perrysburg.
For more information, go to www.tmacog.org.