Lawmaker: Ohio Gov. John Kasich won't lease turnpike

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s emphasis on highway infrastructure investment continues Thursday with the creation of the Ohio Jobs and Transportation plan.

Kasich and the Ohio Department of Transportation seek to generate approximately $3 billion for highway construction without leasing the Ohio Turnpike and without laying turnpike employees, according to a statement released Thursday.

The plan calls for $1.5 billion in new funds for Ohio highways from bonds issued by the Ohio Turnpike Commission and backed by future toll revenues, according to ODOT. Another $1.5 billion will be generated from matching local and federal funds.

“Billions of dollars in new highway funds further strengthens Ohio’s jobs-friendly climate and keeps our state moving by delivering more projects faster,” Kasich said in a statement.

Highlights of the plan include:

  • No long-term, private lease of the Ohio Turnpike.
  • A continued public, independent Turnpike with expanded authority and renamed the “Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission.”
  • More than 90 percent of new bond money will go directly to northern Ohio highway projects, including the Turnpike itself.
  • Rebuilding the Ohio Turnpike will occur decades sooner than planned.
  • Tolls for local trips paid with an EZ Pass are frozen for 10 years.
  • All other toll rates are capped at inflation, which is significantly less than historic toll increases.

State lawmakers briefed on the plan say Kasich is ready to propose raising $1.5 billion for highway projects with Ohio Turnpike bonds while preserving the toll way as a public entity.

State Rep. Lynn Wachtmann, a Napoleon Republican, was among those briefed by telephone Wednesday by members of the governor's team.

He says Kasich's plan would preserve the Ohio Turnpike Commission and retain workers' jobs. The first $1 billion in bonds would come right away, the rest later.

Northern Ohio road projects would get priority.

Wachtmann says Kasich is contemplating a toll increase for vehicles traversing the state, while freezing rates for shorter trips for 10 years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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