CLEVELAND - The fate of the Ohio Turnpike will finally be decided Thursday when Gov. John Kasich announces the findings of the consultant hired to look into how to best use the 241-mile toll road to the state’s advantage.
The Associated Press is reporting that some state lawmakers were briefed on the plan Wednesday night and the governor plans to propose using turnpike bonds. The AP reports it wouldn't affect the turnpike commission, who runs the road, or affect the people who work on the turnpike now.
“That turnpike has the capability to generate at least at this point, from the preliminary look I see, far more than a billion dollars,” Kasich told NewsChannel5 in October. “A billion dollars goes a long way to helping us meet our transportation needs.”
And the needs are many; right now ODOT has $1.6 billion more in highway projects than they have the money to spend.
When the state announced in August that the second phase of the Innerbelt Bridge project was back on track, it wasn’t because ODOT suddenly found the money. ODOT just got creative with the financing, having the private sector put up the dollars with the state’s promise to reimburse them with interest.
The state last year hired consultant KPMG to study the roadway and make a recommendation about what best would benefit the state.
Initially the options for the turnpike boil down to selling the 57-year-old state asset outright, entering into a long-term lease or find a way to move control of the turnpike under the control of ODOT.
The latter would give the state the authority to bond against future revenue, something they cannot do while the roadway is under the control of the semi-autonomous Turnpike Commission.
“It’s kind of like an independent country,” Kasich joked in October. “I’m surprised they don’t have UN membership.”
The announcement will come first in Toledo at 10:30 a.m. with Kasich then traveling to Cleveland and Youngstown to discuss the decision.
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