COLUMBUS — The Ohio Department of Transportation has been given the green light to proceed with a $2.8 million study of the privatization of the Ohio Turnpike.
The Controlling Board, the lawmaker panel that signs off on such outlays, gave its OK today for the funding, to be used by Texas-based KPMG Corporate Finance to determine whether the state should proceed with the lease of the northern Ohio toll road, allow the turnpike to continue operations as-is, bond against the value of the highway or some other option.
KPMG also will review the lease of the state's Interstate rest areas — a provision added to the contract to ensure federal funding of the study.
ODOT officials are remaining mum on the potential windfall from the transactions.
“I have no idea,” Greg Murphy, ODOT chief of staff, said in response to reporters’ questions following Monday’s Controlling Board meeting concerning the value of the turnpike. “We really don’t want to talk about a number. We want to see what the analysis comes back with.”
State officials have talked for months about the possibility of leasing the Ohio Turnpike as a means for providing an infusion of funding for repair, maintenance and new road construction.
The first phase of the study will be completed by the end of the year. The second and third phases would be needed only if the state decides to move forward with the lease.
But opponents question the wisdom of selling a state asset and voiced concern that the outcome of the study was predetermined in favor of privatization.
“I think it’s a waste of money,” said Rep. Ronald Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, who has introduced legislation barring any move to privatize the toll road.