There is no progress report from KPMG, the Texas consulting firm hired to analyze the opportunities that exist from the possibility of leasing the Ohio Turnpike to a private firm.
But Steve Faulkner, press secretary for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said the $3.4 million study is still underway.
“We hope to have something by the end of the year,” he said.
Faulkner balks at calling the KPMG project a “feasibility study” of turnpike privatization, instead calling it an “opportunity analysis.”
Faulkner said the analysis “is a huge undertaking. They’re studying 241 miles of roadway, operation, and maintenance. It doesn’t happen overnight,” he said.
“They’re looking at the condition of the road, and the marketplace,” he said.
He said KPMG has contacted dozens of elected offi cials, business leaders, and others to gather their input on the project.
“We’ve tried to reach out to as many people as we can,” he said.
However, several local offi- cials contact by this newspaper said they had not heard from KPMG.
Faulkner said opposition to leasing the turnpike has been waning.
“We’re having conversations, we hearing people’s concerns,” he said.
“People are realizing, ‘Oh, they’re not selling the turnpike, they’re leasing it,’” he said.
Many have protested that in Indiana, tolls doubled once that state’s toll highway was leased.
Faulkner said tolls in Indiana hadn’t gone up in 20 years, because a vote of the state legislature was required to raise tolls. Ohio Turnpike tolls are set by the Ohio Turnpike Commission. Legislative action is not required.
He said people are concerned that snow and ice be removed promptly from the toll road. That concern is answered by writing into any contract with a private firm that snow and ice be removed within a set time period.
The fear of rampant toll increases can be address by writing a cap on toll increases, limiting increases to the amount of inflation.
Faulkner has said before if the results of the KPMG analysis go against leasing the turnpike, state officials won’t pursue that option.
And once the KMPG study is in, officials will study the report and have further conversations about it before taking action.
Any money that the State of Ohio receives from a lease of the toll road will go toward highway projects across the state. John Kasich, Ohio governor, pledged to spend the majority share of the money in northern Ohio.
“Elected officials, business leaders get it,” he said, the “it” being possible benefits from leasing the turnpike to a private concern.