The Ohio Turnpike won't be sold or leased to raise money for other roadways in the state. But its future income might be mortgaged.
Thursday, Gov. John Kasich proposed leveraging future toll revenues to fund up to $3 billion in road projects. About half that amount would come from the sale of bonds, to be repaid with tolls. Up to $1.5 billion more could come from matching federal and local funding.
Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray said the funds should eliminate a backlog of highway projects.
Critics of the long-term lease plan floated by the Kasich administration were wary of turning over the toll road to a private entity. How well would the private owner maintain the turnpike? Would tolls increase to make lease payments and road work? And if a private entity could operate the road in a more cost-effective manner, why couldn't the state do the same?
But the suggested diversion of turnpike revenue to fund improvements for other roads also raises concerns. Can the toll road be part of the solution without becoming part of the problem?
The governor's new proposal is an attractive one - as long as matching funds materialize, and the delay in road work doesn't become a recurring issue.
If the state has more roads and bridges than can be maintained on a timely basis, perhaps the entire approach to highway funding needs to be reassessed.