Ohio Turnpike won't be leased 2012.12.19

Written by David Green.

Ohio will retain ownership of the Ohio Turnpike, to the relief of residents in the northern part of the state who feared the 241-mile highway system would be sold or leased to a private firm.

When Ohio Governor John Kasich announced two years ago that he was considering the sale or lease of the road, civic leaders and others across the top portion of the state bombarded the governor with letters urging him to reject the plan. Fayette village council voted in May to send a letter protesting the move.

Last week the governor announced that he would not lease the turnpike and instead he would help plug a $1.6 billion transportation budget shortfall by issuing bonds against future toll collections.

The plan is expected to raise $1.5 billion from bonds and bring another $1.5 billion in federal and local funds. A backlog of transportation projects will be addressed, prompting Ohio Transportation Director Jerry Wray to state that 20 years of projects would be rolled into six years time.

In addition, the governor says the plan will create 65,000 jobs and not result in any turnpike employee layoffs. The Ohio Turnpike Commission will be revamped and work closely with the Department of Transportation. Tolls are expected to remain lower than if the highway had been leased.

Ninety percent of the new funding is expected to go toward northern Ohio infrastructure projects, including the turnpike.

The Kasich administration lists a variety of reasons for the large budget shortfall, including the national economic decline, higher fuel prices, more fuel efficient vehicles and constantly increasing costs of construction.

Community leaders in northern Ohio feared a loss of jobs and decreased wages if the turnpike were sold or leased. Concern was also expressed about potential increases in local traffic as truckers sought to avoid high turnpike tolls.

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    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
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    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
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    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
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    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
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    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
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    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
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    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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