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Gov. Kasich seeks support from Ohio Contractors Association for his plan to privatize Ohio Turnpike

by Marc kovac | Capital Bureau Chief Published: December 9, 2012 12:00 AM

Gov. John Kasich continued Dec. 3 to seek "strong support" for his not-yet-released plan for the Ohio Turnpike, telling a contractors group that the coming proposal would be sensitive to northern Ohioans concerned about the impact.

"Why would we have an asset in our state that is underutilized, where value could be captured from that asset and it can be used to generate jobs and also the ability to do the infrastructure needs that we have in a state that's within 600 miles of 60 percent of the country?" Kasich asked. "... What are you afraid of? I wish somebody could really explain to me what the fear is that's behind this, because you don't even know what the plan is yet and you're fearful of it."

"Why don't we stop rejecting things on the future and hear what the plan is, OK? Because we're going to need you."

The governor made the comments during a meeting of the Ohio Contractors Association in suburban Columbus. He didn't offer any specifics about his plan -- the details will be released before the end of the month.

But he repeated what he's told other audiences for months: leasing the Ohio Turnpike could be a means for providing an funding for repair, maintenance and new road construction, with a percentage of the proceeds earmarked for projects in the upper third of the state.

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A number of groups have voiced concern about the potential Turnpike privatization.

The Ohio Public Interest Research Group last month released a report urging the Kasich administration to fully answer questions about the transaction before going forward.

And last week the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation renewed its position against privatization.

"We are very sensitive about the feelings and emotions that are tied to this," Kasich said Dec. 3S. "And believe me, we've taken those feelings and those emotions into account. We don't want to run over anybody, and we don't want to put round pegs in square holes, but we're not going to let fear guide the future of our state."

Kasich also voiced his support for privatizing rest areas on state highways. Leasing them to private business would provide revenue to the state and potential updates to the areas.

"I don't know if you've ever been in any of those rest areas, but they're not great," he said. "In fact, [ODOT Director Jerry] Wray, could you take my picture down out of those rest areas?"

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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