GRANGER, Ind. (AP) — Rates on the Indiana Toll Road have gone
up, but not for motorists with E-ZPass-compatible transponders.
Rates went up Friday. The cost for most passenger vehicles
without transponders now is $9 for the entire 157-mile trip across northern
Indiana. That’s an increase of 20 cents over the previous rates. Those with
transponders pay $4.65.
E-ZPass-compatible transponders include Indiana’s i-Zoom, the
I-PASS from Illinois and the E-ZPass from Ohio. Those devices are locked
into the same rate through 2016.
WNDU-TV reports the privately run toll road’s oversight board
recently gave final approval to the rate increase.
TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Leasing Ohio’s busy toll road that links
the East Coast with the Midwest has the potential to bring billions of
dollars to the cash-strapped state. It also could bring higher tolls and
drive more traffic onto routes that meander through small towns, opponents
The governor wants to lease the Ohio Turnpike to a private
operator, following the lead of a handful of states and cities that have
pocketed cash for their toll roads in recent years. Governments strapped by
the Great Recession also are turning to selling off and leasing office
towers, warehouses and prisons.
"We can get a big chunk of money that can be used to improve
our infrastructure in the state,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Friday during a
news conference. “Indiana did it. Indiana made a lot of progress.”
Neighboring Indiana last week marked the five-year
anniversary of its $3.8 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road to foreign
investors. The state has spent much of the money on highway projects and put
$500 million into an investment fund for future road construction.
Chicago leased an 8-mile highway for nearly $2 billion five
years ago, and an Australian company bought a 99-year lease on Pocahontas
Parkway in Virginia. But a plan to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike fell
through in recent years, in part because of fierce opposition from state and
Ohio’s new budget allows the state to lease nearly all of
Interstate 80, which carries about 50 million vehicles each year across
northern Ohio from Pennsylvania to Indiana. It also gives the state’s
legislature some control over any potential deals after concerns were raised
about whether a new owner would take care of the highway.
Much of the resistance is being led by officials from Ohio
counties along the 241-mile turnpike, which is funded through tolls and the
sale of gas and food at rest stops.
"It’s a terribly unfair deal for northern Ohioans who have
largely paid for the turnpike over the years,” said Tim Brown, a
commissioner in Wood County, just south of Toledo. “It’s no different than a
tax increase for us.”
Among the main concerns is that tolls are almost certain to
go up if a private operator takes over.
Tolls have nearly doubled since investors took over the
Indiana Toll Road. A 10 percent increase took effect on Friday, bringing the
price to cross the northern half of the state to $9 for most cars.
County officials in Ohio want to make sure there would be
limits on future toll increases if the state’s toll road is leased. It’s now
$15 for cars making a full trip. The turnpike collected a record $236
million from motorists last year.
By comparison, Pennsylvania charges $32 to travel all 357
miles on its turnpike.
Kasich, a Republican, views the Ohio Turnpike as an asset
that has potential to bring more revenue at a time when the state just
completed a series of spending cuts to fill an estimated $6 billion budget
He thinks the state could get at least $2.5 billion in
leasing it and has said the money would pay for work on roads, bridges and
harbors without raising taxes.
A five-county planning body in northeast Ohio wants most of the money to go
toward projects in northern Ohio, where the turnpike money is generated. It
also wants to make sure there are guarantees that a private operator will
keep up with highway maintenance.
The concern is that if the road becomes too costly or goes downhill,
businesses that rely on the route might relocate or it will be tougher to
attract new companies.
“There’s a cost to the communities that are along the turnpike,” said
Stephen Hambley, a Medina County commissioner who heads the planning body in
northeast Ohio. “We’ve been paying for it since the ‘50s. We feel we’re a
That’s why state Sen. Mark Wagner, a Republican from Toledo, inserted a
provision to Ohio’s state budget giving lawmakers oversight of any lease
“We owe it to northern Ohio to do it in a responsible way,” he said.
Another worry is that truck traffic will move to secondary roads and clog up
the small towns along the way. That’s what happened when an 82 percent rate
increase took full effect in 1999. The state responded by lowering tolls and
increasing speeds for truckers.
More toll hikes if the turnpike is leased will likely push a lot more
tractor-trailers onto other roads, said Joe Jones, a long-haul truck driver
from Charlotte, N.C.
He went out of his way to avoid the turnpike’s toll booths while hauling
machinery from upstate New York to Chicago on Friday.
“It puts another 60 miles on the trip, but I hate paying tolls,” he said
while refueling at a truck stop just outside Toledo.