Gov. Kasich moving forward with Ohio Turnpike lease plan 2012.10.17

Written by David Green.

It wasn’t good news to Fayette mayor Ruth Marlatt. Not at all.

When she learned earlier this month that Ohio Governor John Kasich is moving closer to leasing the Ohio Turnpike, her concern about the decision’s impact on Fayette only increased.

Marlatt first spoke to village council members about the issue in February, and in May council voted to join many other communities in northern Ohio by sending a letter of disapproval to the governor.

Kasich spoke about leasing the turnpike to a private firm early in his term as governor. On Oct. 4, he announced in Cleveland that a decision would be made within the next 30 days.

Kasich said during the Cleveland speech that more than a billion dollars would be raised over time by the sale, and those funds could be used to pay for infrastructure needs for a decade. He told business leaders in Cleveland that the bulk of the money would be used for projects in the northern part of the state.

A Texas consulting firm was paid $2.85 million to complete a feasibility study of the proposed sale, according to the Columbus Dispatch, but the results of the study have not yet been released.

If the turnpike isn’t leased to a private firm, Kasich might instead issue bonds against the roadway or have ODOT take over operations.

Critics of the lease plan claim that a similar move in Indiana left its toll road with higher fares and poorer maintenance. Marlatt spoke about the concern of increased traffic on U.S. 20 passing through Fayette as more truckers would look for alternatives to higher fares. The loss of some local jobs is also anticipated.

Ed Kinston of Pioneer, a former turnpike commission member, has said that the interest in a decision to lease the highway would likely focus on the revenue earned rather than the effect of the move to communities along the road.

Some critics have described the plan as short term gain followed by long-term problems, but Gov. Kasich believes action is needed to pay for road and bridge projects.

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