June 28, 2016

Intermittent clouds

Ohio House passes $1.5 billion Turnpike deal

COLUMBUS — The Ohio House on Thursday approved Gov. John Kasich’s proposal to raise about $1.5 billion for state highway projects through Ohio Turnpike bonds, despite concerns about where the money will be spent.

Many northern Ohio lawmakers wanted guarantees that nearly all the money generated by bond sales would be used for road projects in the region near the Turnpike, which cuts across northern Ohio. They also wanted the proposal to include Kasich’s pledge to freeze toll rates for a decade for motorists making trips of 30 miles or less on the 241-mile toll road.

But the bill, which passed by a vote of 58-36, included neither of those guarantees. The Kasich administration has said it will deliver on the promises, but placing precise spending targets in the law would limit flexibility.

The issue now goes to the Senate, which has started hearings on the measure.

Rep. Terry Boose, a Norwalk Republican, equated the plan to a “punch in the face” for his district, saying he was concerned the measure might keep businesses from relocating to the area.

“The cost of the Turnpike is going to go up,” he said, contending companies could go to Lima, where they don’t have to pay for transportation.

When Kasich rolled out his plan for the Turnpike in December, he said northern Ohio road projects would get priority treatment with almost all the money being directed to projects north of U.S. 30.