John Kasich, Ohio governor, is looking at privatizing the Ohio Turnpike as a way to generate cash for state government.
Speaking to the Ohio Newspaper Association in Columbus, Thursday, Feb. 10, Kasich said, “Wouldn’t it be fantastic if I could take another country in Ohio called the turnpike, if I could privatize it (sell or lease it to a private company), and generate as much as $2.5 billion, potentially?”
“We’ll see. If we can’t get it we probably won’t do it.
“And I can take that money and I can put a billion into infrastructure, working with CSX and Norfolk-Southern and highways and bridges and harbors. Wouldn’t that be fantastic instead of having an asset that is underutilized in the state, at a time when we’re in crisis? I think so,” he said.
“But change is hard.” Opposed
The Fulton County Commissioners are opposed to Kasich’s plan.
They expressed their opposition by drafting a letter in support of the Wood County Commissioners, who are objecting to the sale or lease of the toll road.
“I just think we’re concerned, as a board of commissioners, that selling or leasing a State of Ohio asset would be a short-term fix,” said Dean Genter, Fulton County commissioner.
“If they (state officials) did (lease the toll road), will the dollars stay with the counties that abut the turnpike, or will it go to the big cities?” Genter asked.
He noted Indiana leased its toll road to a private firm for $3.85 billion, then used the money to fund economic development.
If the turnpike is leased to a private firm, Genter asked if it would continue to be maintained to current standards.
He said the turnpike “is a great thoroughfare that goes through Northern Ohio. I would hate to see us sell it,” he said. On The Table
Rob Nichols, a Kasich spokesman, said, “Everything is on the table. We’re looking at everything.
“But we have not committed to a single thing. It must make financial sense to move forward.”
Nichols said the Kasich administration is “trying to dig ourselves out of an $8 billion budget hole.”
When asked about the idea of privatizing the toll road, L. George Distel, executive director of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, which owns and operates the roadway, said, “The decision of whether or not to privatize the turnpike or lease it is an important public policy decision that the governor and Ohio legislature will have to undertake.”