TMACOG supports legislation to expand turnpike financingWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments (TMACOG) supported legislation that would allow expansion of the Ohio Turnpike Commission’s authority to issue $1.5 billion in bonds to finance both turnpike and other transportation projects in the state which Governor John Kasich is expected to sign soon.
“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 was submitted to the Executive Committee at its March 20 meeting,” TMACOG President Anthony Reams said in a statement provided to the Free Press.
TMACOG’s Executive Committee approved the resolution which was sent to Governor Kasich, the Ohio legislature and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT).
Fundamentally, the TMACOG resolution supported the expanded bonding capacity of the turnpike, according to Reams.
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 tier two projects to be nearly $10 billion, according to the Ohio Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC).
The situation led to Governor 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), according to Reams.
The 130th General Assembly considered legislation, H.B. 51, to enact the legislative changes required to enable implementation of the governor’s proposal. Many policy and rule changes administered by both ODOT and newly formed Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC) will need to be developed for its implementation.
Ohio House of Representatives passed H.B. 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 House Bill 51 on March 13 with some amendments. 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 refused to concur with the Senate’s amendments. The Senate insisted on the amendments and requested a committee of conference on the bill.
The final Amended Substitute HB 51 was passed by the legislation March 21. Governor Kasich had said that he intends to sign the bill when it reaches his desk.
The Governor’s office received the final bill with the complete Transportation budget on March 25 and is in the process of reviewing the legislation.
“Passage of our Jobs and Transportation Plan marks a great day for all Ohioans and the job creators who depend on our highway system to ship goods throughout our state. This Turnpike plan is big change for our state, and I applaud the General Assembly for being open to and ultimately passing an innovative plan that will allow us to complete infrastructure projects faster, create 65,000 new construction jobs and help attract new job creators to Ohio,” Kasich said in a statement to the media after the bill was approved.
Am. Sub. House Bill 51 would use turnpike toll revenues to support the issuance of $1.5 billion in bonds that, when matched with local and federal funds, to 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, according to Reams.
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 TMACOG’s 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 stated.
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, according to 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.
For more information, go to www.tmacog.org.