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Economy and Business

Feds pull funds to study privatizing Ohio turnpike
The Federal Highway Administration pulls funding to research privatizing the 241-mile toll road

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M.L. Schultze
Kasich cites Indiana as a success story. In 2006, it entered into a 75-year lease with a foreign company for nearly $4 billion.
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Governor Kasich’s plan to privatize the Ohio turnpike has taken a step back. The Federal Highway Administration revealed Friday that it’s withdrawing its funding to research the proposal. WKSU’s M.L Schultze reports.
Ohio loses turnpike study funds

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The Ohio Department of Transportation is reapplying for one and half million dollars in federal funds to study the privatization of the Ohio Turnpike. But the Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, acknowledges he’s not optimistic that the new proposal will change the feds’ minds. 

The Federal Highway Administration revoked its earlier approval of the funds, after getting a letter from Northern Ohio’s Congressional Democrats. They argued that the study would be a misuse of federal money. 

Director Wray insists the proposal has merit. 
“Now it appears we’ve moved into a political arena. As we revise our request, it appears from my request that politics has stepped in, and we’ll see how it comes out.”

Governor Kasich has continually argued that privatization of the turnpike could generate at least 3-billion dollars. He says that extra revenue could help rebuild infrastructure around the state.
"You know what we can do with that money?  We can begin the process of dredging our harbors.  We can begin the process of fixing our arteries… developing the kind of infrastructure in Ohio that – number one – creates jobs upfront because they will be shovel-ready.  Number two – they will be designed to put roads in places where we can improve productivity."

Kasich cites Indiana as a success story.  In 2006, it entered into a 75-year lease with a foreign company for nearly $4 billion.

But Congressman Ryan, who leads the opposition, says Indiana is a warning for Ohio.
"When Indiana privatized their turnpike, you saw almost a 150 percent increase in the tolls.  Because of the high tolls, you push traffic off into the smaller communities that then have nore wear and tear and more congestion, and then they’re forced to make investments that maybe they don’t have the money for."

ODOT director Wray says if the new application is rejected, the state will have to look for other options to move forward with the turnpike study.
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