The legislation that would have the state of Ohio issuing bonds backed by Ohio Turnpike revenues should guarantee that the revenues generated will be used to benefit Ohio counties north of U.S. 30 just like Gov. John Kasich promised when he outlined this plan a month ago.
Otherwise, the plan amounts to northern Ohio subsidizing the rest of the state, particularly Columbus and central Ohio, where I-70 enables vehicular traffic to traverse the state of Ohio free of charge. It becomes another way for central and southern Ohio to trump those of us who reside north of U.S. 30.
There were some attractive trade-offs in the governor's original plan regarding the Ohio Turnpike. It kept the state from selling off an important asset. It provided much needed revenues for projects beneficial to northern Ohio, enabling projects delayed for lack of funds to move forward.
The most visible of these projects is the new Cleveland inner city bridge, very beneficial to the economy of northern Ohio, which will be built sooner rather than later with the governor's Turnpike bonding plan. It's a great project although the Ohio Department of Transportation's design could use some major beautification tweaking plus the addition of a bicycle lane. Since northern Ohio will be paying for this project with Ohio Turnpike-generated funds, we wish the Cleveland area had the gumption to tell ODOT to improve the design. Are Cleveland and Cuyahoga County so desperate they can't insist on a more attractive design and a bicycle lane?
Most of the county engineers in northern Ohio would prefer to see a hike in the gasoline tax instead of the governor's Ohio Turnpike proposal and they are probably correct in their thinking. Right now, however, the governor has the votes and some kind of Turnpike bonding program is going to be written into law. The best strategy at this point would be for the counties north of U.S. 30 to form a voting bloc on this matter to ensure the money remains with them.
This is an important issue that Republicans and Democrats representing counties north of U.S. 30 should be able to agree on and make their voices heard in the Ohio legislature. You want to see common ground between Republicans and Democrats? What more could you ask for than a joint effort to keep north of U.S. 30 the money generated by the Ohio Turnpike bonding plan.