Over the past year, there have been many plans considered to allow the state to cash in on the ownership of the Ohio Turnpike. These ideas have included the possible sale or long-term lease of our state’s finest roadway. As the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and a lifelong Northeast Ohioan, I have stood in adamant opposition to such a plan. We have willingly paid for the Turnpike for many years, and continue to do so because it is a high quality road and a great regional asset.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve led my committee, and eventually the full Senate, to approve a compromise plan that will allow us to retain ownership of the Turnpike while also leveraging its value to provide funds to vastly improve many other Northeast Ohio roads. The plan my committee approved will allow the Turnpike Commission to sell up to $1.5 billion in bonds against the roadway in order to fund a vast array of other northern Ohio road projects. Combined with federal and local matching funds, this will give us $3 billion for new infrastructure projects over the next couple of years.

Before calling the plan up for a vote, I inserted an amendment which would require that at least 90 percent of the funds raised by the bonds are spent on roads within 75 miles of the Turnpike. Since it is primarily northern Ohioans who pay to use the Turnpike, I feel it is only fair that they receive the greatest concentration of new infrastructure projects.

This plan brings the potential for economic growth and improvements to our area on two levels. First, with such concentrated amount of infrastructure investment coming to our region, we can expect around 65,000 jobs to be created statewide over the next couple years. Second, as we clean up our infrastructure and create roads that are capable of handling increased population and traffic, it will quickly attract more businesses and stimulate our local economy. For instance, under this plan, back-burner projects like State Route 57 through Elyria and Lorain and Center Ridge Road in North Ridgeville are expected to be brought up for immediate consideration. This means good things for commercial areas like Midway Mall.

In addition to the Turnpike Plan, the state’s biennium transportation budget responded to several other things that Ohioans have requested. Included among these citizen-supported initiatives, this budget reduces the late fee for vehicle registration from $20 to $10 and allows for multi-year registration of certain vehicles. We also approved a provision which requires a stop or yield sign at all railroad crossings where a passive warning device, such as a flashing light or a gate, is not present.

I am eagerly anticipating the implementation of this budget, which I perceive to be one of the greatest job-creating bills we will have the opportunity to pass this legislative session. As I’ve already expressed, I know that when we invest in our infrastructure, we do more than build better roads, we create a pathway for new businesses, we employ more workers, and we contribute to the health of Ohio’s improving economy. 

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