As Ohio Awaits Study of Turnpike Future, Consumer Group Outlines Need for Answers

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Eight Questions That Must Be Answered by Turnpike Study

Ohio PIRG Education Fund

COLUMBUS –With the state-commissioned KPMG report on the Ohio Turnpike due any day, a new report by consumer watchdog organization Ohio Public Interest Research Group (Ohio PIRG) released today confirms that privatizing would not create new value but would merely borrow against future toll revenue.

The report “Eight Questions about the Future of the Ohio Turnpike,” outlines eight questions Ohioans need answered before any new deal on the Turnpike moves forward. The $2.85 million study commissioned by the state will be insufficient if it does not at least answer these questions.

“Ohioans are waiting to see what the study turns up,” said Tabitha Woodruff, Ohio PIRG Advocate and report co-author.  “We don’t know what it will say, but the public won’t be protected from a bad privatization deal unless these eight basic questions are answered..”

The Ohio PIRG report asks:

·         Could the state raise the same amount of money if it were willing to raise tolls as fast as a private operator would?

·         If there are cost-saving measures anticipated by privatization, what is stopping the state from introducing the same measures?

·         Would a lease with a private toll road operator restrict improvements to parallel and competing roadways? Would the state need to pay compensation to the private operator if future public decisions indirectly reduced the private operator’s profits?

·         What downsides might result if higher tolls divert traffic onto secondary roads and into local communities?

·         What additional costs would the state of Ohio incur for professional services or in-house expertise to negotiate, monitor, enforce and litigate its privatization deal?

·         What information would be restricted from the public if a private operator claimed that information about its operation and finances were proprietary business secrets?

Other present and former public officials have voiced other concerns.

“I remain strongly opposed to the privatization of the Ohio Turnpike,” said State Representative Mike Dovilla (R-Berea). “The sale or lease of our state’s 241-mile toll road to an entity that would very likely be foreign-owned, would have many unintended – but easy to predict – consequences that outweigh any supposed benefits. These negative impacts include the veritable certainty of higher tolls, decreased maintenance, personnel layoffs and the diversion of commercial vehicles on to local roadways that cannot accommodate increased traffic volume.”

According to Gary Suhadolnik, former Executive Director of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, “It is wrong to ask turnpike customers who are already paying their own way and not costing Ohio one penny to now be asked to be a revenue source to subsidize other roadway projects.”

While some Ohioans worry about how proceeds from a lease on the Turnpike would be spent, others worry simply that the public has been ignored and denied a chance to provide substantive input. House representatives are currently working on a bill to require more public hearings be held before a final decision is made on the Turnpike.