Ohio Turnpike jobs saved, EZ pass tolls frozen

Gov. Kasich announced plans for the revitalization of the Ohio Turnpike on Thursday.

After much speculation about whether or not Gov. John Kasich would lease the Ohio Turnpike, the governor announced Thursday a plan for generating $3 billion for highway road construction without leasing and laying off turnpike employees.

According to ODOT, the Ohio Jobs and Transportation Plan would generate $1.5 billion in new funds for Ohio highways from bonds issued by the Ohio Turnpike Commission and backed by future toll revenues. Up to an additional $1.5 billion could be generated from matching local and federal funds coming to a combined total of approximately $3 billion for major highway construction projects.

Tolls for local trips using an EZ Pass will remain the same for 10 years and all other toll rates are capped at inflation, according to the plan. The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission will oversee all turnpike operations and no employee layoffs are anticipated, according to Gov. Kasich.

"This plan just makes sense as we continue Ohio's economic resurgence, grow jobs and make our state prosperous once again," Gov. Kasich said. "Billions of dollars in new highway funds further strengthens Ohioâ??s jobs-friendly climate and keeps our state moving by delivering more projects faster."

ODOT says it has cut the agencyâ??s $1.6 billion highway budget deficit by $400 million thanks to new savings and operational efficiencies, but more money and more innovation is needed. Funds generated from the Ohio Jobs and Transportation Plan are hoped to fill the budget deficit without raising taxes that would kill jobs. The launch of the new plan concludes a year-long study of options for better using the revenue generated by the Ohio Turnpike.

"Maintaining public control and an independent Turnpike Commission helps keep tolls low and workers on the job," Ohio Turnpike Director Rick Hodges said. "Plus, with this new plan we can get to work rebuilding the entire Turnpike decades sooner than we once had planned."