Ohio gets help studying turnpike options

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The Ohio Office of Budget and Management and Ohio Department of Transportation on Wednesday, Nov. 23, announced that they have chosen KPMG to advise the state as it considers ways to use funds from the Ohio Turnpike to cope with shrinking resources to maintain and expand Ohio’s highways.

“Our highway system is the lifeline for Ohio’s manufacturing and agricultural jobs,” says Jerry Wray, ODOT director. “But the cost of repairing and expanding Ohio’s highways is outpacing funding, while the availability of federal highway funds is increasingly unpredictable. Without new funds, highway projects we thought would start in the next few years could be pushed off for two decades. Ohio can’t let that happen. We must be innovative about meeting our highway needs.”

While Wray describes the turnpike as a hugely valuable untapped asset, “it’s the property of Ohio and would never be sold.” He adds, however, that “there are different ways that it could be leveraged to generate needed funds so our highways can keep supporting job creation and economic growth.”

Tim Keen, OBM director, says that selection of an advisory team is the first step to develop and evaluate options to make the best economic use of the Ohio Turnpike as a state asset. “Because this is a very complex issue, we’re turning to a team of experienced professionals to help us make the best decision and to proceed with the option that’s most appropriate for Ohio’s transportation system and our economy as a whole,” Keen says.

KPMG was selected from a list of 14 original applicants and five short-listed applicants. Now that a team has been selected, OBM and ODOT will enter into final negotiations with KPMG and anticipate having a contract finalized by the end of the year. KPMG will help Ohio consider all aspects of the turnpike to analyze various options and make recommendations on how to proceed.

Wray says the final recommendation could be anything from leaving the turnpike in its current form, moving it under ODOT or leasing it to a private operator – or options Ohio perhaps hasn’t yet considered. KPMG will have until July 1, 2012, to make recommendations to the state.