Clyde calls governor's $1.5 billion Turnpike bill a 'bad idea'

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published:

Gov. John Kasich's proposal to borrow $1.5 billion for road improvements and leverage that money against Ohio Turnpike receipts is a "bad idea" that doesn't add up, State Rep. Kathleen Clyde told residents at a public forum Monday.

"It's just simple arithmetic," Clyde told the group gathered at the Kent Free Library. "It doesn't make sense how they could get that much money without increasing tolls and closing maintenance facilities."

The proposal, she said, would call for future turnpike revenues to be used to pay for the federal loan, and would not increase tolls "substantially" to people who travel less than 30 miles a day. Clyde said there are many residents and businesses that travel more than 30 miles daily on the turnpike, particularly auto plants and parts suppliers.

Clyde said Kasich originally said that "90 percent" of the funding would be spent in Northern Ohio, then amended that statement to say the "majority" of the money would be spent here. Jerry Wray, director of Ohio Department of Transportation, recently said the 90 percent figure was a "foolish expectation."

The transportation budget would grant a 4.5 percent increase to ODOT, which would receive $6.1 billion of the $7.6 billion budget. The bill also proposes a 1.3 percent decrease in funding to the Ohio Department of Public Safety but almost doubles Kasich's personal security budget. Only 136 million goes to the Ohio Department of Public Works, which funds local road projects.

That's a concern to Mickey Marozzi, the Portage County Engineer.

Marozzi said the former Issue 2 program is a "stellar program" that is a model for other states.

"It's not broke, and I hope it's not fixed," he said.

Marozzi said he has similar concerns about the Turnpike, and whether it would be maintained "in the manner we've all become accustomed to."

"Everybody in this area who takes the Turnpike knows that they can expect to drive on a well-maintained road," he said. "They do snow and ice control to the nth degree. That's what we pay for. It's a really good system."

He said the money needs to be concentrated in Northeastern Ohio because it is local residents who pay the turnpike tolls.

Brian Smith of the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority said that in meetings with the Akron Metropolitan Area Transportation Study, he was told the state only had enough money to maintain what it has.

"What happened to the idea of paying for what you use?" he said.

Clyde suggested that concerned residents write letters to their newspaper and to their legislators, particularly State Sen. John Ecklund and State Rep. Matt Lynch, who are both Republicans like Kasich.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139 or dsmith@recordpub.com

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