Posts Tagged ‘Ohio Turnpike’

Turnpike Won’t Go All Electronic Tolling for Now

June 29, 2020

The Ohio Turnpike does not plan to institute all electronic toll collecting or to end the use of human toll takers, at least for now.

Turnpike officials said they will continue to take cash, credit cards and E-Z Pass for the foreseeable future although the agency is undertaking a toll modernization project.

The modernization program, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2022, will allow for “open road tolling” in which motorists with an E-Z pass can travel the length of the 241-mile turnpike without slowing down.

Turnpike spokesman Brian Newbacher said use of the E-Z Pass in Ohio is not high enough to justify ending the ability to pay tolls with cash or credit card.

Cameras could be used to photograph license plates of vehicles without an E-Z Pass as they pass through a toll plaza with the license plate holder receiving a bill in the mail.

That is the practice on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which has also furloughed  its toll takers as it moved to an all-electronic tolling system.

The downside to that system is that not all motorists pay their bill and in some instances the toll can’t be collected.

On the Ohio Turnpike, more than 35 percent of users paid tolls by cash or a credit card, which netted nearly $90 million in revenue last year.

In Pennsylvania, about 20 percent of users paid by cash or credit in 2019.

Last November, 83 percent of Pennsylvania Turnpike users paid tolls with an E-Z Pass.

Of the 9 percent of users who had a photo taken of their license plate, 5 percent have yet to pay and 3 percent of the tolls were unbillable due to an obscured plate or insufficient address.

Newbacher said Ohio Turnpike officials expect that in time they will move to an all-electronic system, but E-Z Pass use is not expected to a level to justify that for at least another seven to 12 years.

Pennsylvania justified furloughing toll takers in part as a plan to seek to stop the spread of COVID-19, but Ohio Turnpike officials believes they have adequately addressed any health concerns by installing protective shields in toll booths, issuing hand sanitizer and gloves to toll collectors, sanitizing each toll booth once a week.

The Ohio Turnpike employs 159 toll collectors who earn from $21.53 to $26.95 a hour for fulltime collectors. The 166 part-time toll collectors are paid from $18.25 to $20.77 an hour.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission laid off nearly 500 employees and moved up its switch to all-electronic tolling from a planned date of October 2021.

Ohio’s modernization plan will also involve installation of directional aides to help channel traffic and building new “mainline” plazas near Toledo and Youngstown.

That will lead to the elimination of several little-used toll plazas at exits and entrances at each end of the turnpike where tolls will no longer be collected.

Ohio Turnpike Traffic Down 68%

April 19, 2020

Stay at home orders have resulted in traffic plunging by 68 percent on the Ohio Turnpike.

Although most of that is private vehicular traffic, commercial traffic has fallen by 13 percent.

Although that means less revenue for the turnpike, the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission announced said recently it still plans to push ahead with various construction projects this year although a turnpike spokesman said some scheduled projects may be delayed until 2021.

Some 2021 project might be put off until 2022, the spokesman said.

In the meantime, the turnpike has ended manual fare collection at 21 of its 31 toll plazas with machines now taking tolls from motorists.

Ten of the turnpikes toll plaza lack those machines so a minimum number of toll collectors are on duty there although they have been instructed in “mandatory hygiene practices” and physical distancing among employees.

There have been no furloughs of turnpike employees, but part-time toll collectors are getting fewer shifts and a hiring freeze is in place.

Some vendors at service plazas have reduced their hours while some have suspended operations.

The turnpike will benefit from a recent refinancing of $413.5 million in bonds that will save it $139.8 million in debt service over the next 28 years, representing a “net present value savings” of $87.7 million.

Round and Round and Round the Toll Hike Wheel Goes. When It Will Finally Stop Nobody Knows

January 6, 2018

You might think that every penny that you pay to use a toll road would go toward the maintenance and operation of that road, including administrative expenses.

Maybe at one time it worked that way, but no longer. A toll road is an attractive cash cow to be milked by political officials for their pet projects or to pay expenses for which public funding is in short supply.

I’m not saying this is right, just that it is one of the many games that policy makers play in the budget making process.

For the 10th consecutive year tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike are increasing and a case could be made that the size of the hike is not entirely the doing of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

By law the Commission pays $450 million every year to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, which uses that money to help fund public transportation as well as highway and bridge projects not involving the turnpike.

The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission also diverts toll revenue to uses that do not directly involve the turnpike.

The game involves raiding pots of reliable and considerable revenue to fund programs tangentially related to the source of that revenue that are hard-pressed to pay for themselves.

It is all the better if much of the revenue from those pots comes from those who can’t vote against those doing the raiding.

Here is one example of how it works. Back in 2013, the Ohio Turnpike Commission sold $1 billion in bonds for capital improvements, agreeing to set aside $930 million of the proceeds to fund 10 transportation projects in Northern Ohio that do not directly involve the turnpike.

One of those is the Opportunity Corridor, a boulevard linking East 55th Street and University Circle in Cleveland.

Portions of that project have included upgrading facilities of the Greater Cleveland Regional
Transit Authority. The transportation elements of the Opportunity Corridor notwithstanding, it is an economic development project seeking to revive financially distressed Cleveland neighborhoods.

A Cleveland area resident sued the Turnpike Commission in federal court, arguing that diverting toll money for non-toll road projects violated state and federal law.

A judge disagreed, saying there is a “nexus” between the turnpike and other transportation projects because turnpike users will benefit from those projects.

Maybe so, yet I doubt that many New Jersey residents, for example, traveling to Chicago via the Ohio Turnpike will ever use the Opportunity Corridor’s spiffy boulevard.

For that matter, many users of the Pennsylvania Turnpike will never use public transportation in the Keystone State. But they are paying for it anyway, often without knowing it.

This is not to say that endeavors such as the Opportunity Corridor or public transportation are without merit and don’t deserve public funding.

Nor is it to say that the policy makers who created the Opportunity Corridor or decided that public transportation users should be subsidized by taxpayers who don’t use that service made poor decisions.

It is to wonder how long the annual toll increase merry-go-round can continue spinning before it breaks.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is wondering the same thing and has launched a review of the turnpike commission.

I’m not optimistic that any report that DePasquale issues is going to result in tolls being lowered on the turnpike let alone stopping the onward march of annual toll hikes.

The mandate that the Pennsylvania Turnpike underwrite some responsibilities of PennDOT is not the sole cause of that 6 percent hike that takes effect on Sunday.

At best that mandate simply adds to the size of the toll hike the turnpike probably would have imposed anyway even if every dime of it were to go directly to the turnpike.

The policy makers may pay lip service to DePasquale’s report and shave a few nickels and dimes here and there, but the allure of the cash cow and its daily torrent of toll-paying motorists is too irresistible to ignore as an answer to funding needs and the desires of policy makers without raising income taxes and sales taxes.

They’re simply raiding your wallet in other ways, including building automatic fee increases into toll roads every year in the belief that as much as you might gripe about the tolls you’ll continue to pay them because taking the toll road is more convenient than driving miles out of your way on two-lane highways without toll booths but which come with a multitude of traffic signals, lower speed limits and small town speed traps.

It is hard to love a highway that charges $7 upfront when you drive directly from the Ohio Turnpike onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Tomorrow it will cost you 45 cents more to enter Pennsylvania.

The Ohio Turnpike is also becoming more expensive. Back in 2013, the Turnpike Commission approved 2.7 percent toll hikes every year through 2023. It has learned well from its neighbor to the east.

Historic Toledo RR Bridge Available for Free

January 5, 2018

If you’ve driven on the Ohio Turnpike past Toledo you’ve probably seen an abandoned railroad bridge over the Maumee River alongside the highway.

It once carried the tracks of the Toledo Terminal Railroad, which made a loop around Toledo. It was in its day the only complete railroad beltway in the country to form a complete loop.

Now The Wood County Port Authority and the Ohio Department of Transportation have a deal in place that will allow the bridge to be removed.

The agreement, which also includes the Ohio Historic Preservation Office, requires the bridge to be documented and, if possible, reused.

The bridge was built in 1902 and in its current condition cannot be used for railroad, highway or even trail uses. CSX conveyed it to the port authority in 2011.

The port authority is willing to give the bridge to a community or park system if they will place it somewhere else.

ODOT has agreed to preserve the spans before and after they’re removed. The swing spans are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places because they are an example of an uncommon type of bridge.

A commemorative plaque and display about the bridge and railroad will be placed near its present site and parts of the bridge could be used along the Chessie Circle Trail.

Before the bridge is removed, it will be documented using Historic American Engineering Record standards. So far, no one has come forward to claim the bridge.

Ohio Turnpike Sets 2017 Construction Work

January 31, 2017

The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission has approved a $121.4 million capital budget for 2017 that includes construction projects in Northeast Ohio.

Ohio turnpikeThe budget calls for pavement replacement and resurfacing, bridge rehabilitation and an investment of $714,000 in technology to prepare for a time when vehicles will be able to communicate with each other and the roadway.

Turnpike Executive Director Randy Cole said despite the road work there should be less congestion because there will be 25 percent fewer lane miles under construction.

“We heard loud and clear from our customers last summer. They want fewer orange barrels so we are carefully balancing customer preference with the pace of our program for improvements,”  Cole said in a statement.

To prepare for self-driving vehicles, the turnpike plans to deploy Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) (connected vehicle) technology.

This year it will be installed in the Boston and Amherst maintenance sections between mileposts 126.4 in Erie County (Berlin Township) and 187.5 in Portage County (Streetsboro).

Forty turnpike maintenance vehicles will be equipped with on-board units that will gather and supply data to managers monitoring the fleet’s activity.

Pavement replacement plans for 2017 include a 5-mile long section in the eastbound lanes in Sandusky County from milepost 90 to 95.9 (between Sandusky and Riley Townships).

Also slated to be replaced are 5-mile long sections in Erie County in the westbound lanes from milepost 107.3 to 112.45 (between Groton and Oxford Townships) and in Portage County from milepost 186.35 to 191.39 (between Streetsboro and Shalersville Township).

The pavement replacement budget for 2017 is $45.5 million.

Four 2017 resurfacing projects will cost $21.6 million. These projects will include resurfacing the pavement of the right and center lanes from milepost 69.3 to 74.15 (between Lake and Troy Townships) in Wood and Ottawa Counties and resurfacing all three lanes and both shoulders from milepost 136.1 to 144.1 in Lorain County (between Brownhelm and Elyria).

In Cuyahoga County, the left lane and left shoulder will be resurfaced from milepost 160.1 to 169.1 (between Strongsville and Broadview Heights) with construction taking place from August until October of 2017.

In addition, in Cuyahoga and Summit Counties, the interchange at Exit 173 (Akron/Cleveland) will undergo pavement reconstruction, repairs and resurfacing of select ramps from May through October.

The turnpike plans to spend  $16.6 billion in bridge repairs and rehabilitations.

The work includes deck replacements, miscellaneous bridge rehabilitations, and substructure repair at various sites, including five deck replacements and bridge removal at mileposts 122.3, 128.5, 132.4 138, 138.2 (bridge removal) and 145.8 in Erie and Lorain Counties.

In Cuyahoga County, the Ohio Route 252 bridge over the turnpike at milepost 156.9 (Olmsted Falls) will undergo a bridge deck replacement and rehabilitation.

In Summit and Portage Counties, bridge bearings, joints and decks will be replaced on overhead bridges at mileposts 178, 179.5 and 199.2.

In Mahoning County, six mainline bridges and one ramp bridge from milepost 222.8 to 232.9 will undergo bearing and deck joint replacements and two bridge deck replacements are planned at milepost 240.8 east and westbound.

Ohio Turnpike Set Usage Record in 2016

January 30, 2017

The Ohio Turnpike hosted a record number of 54.9 million vehicles in 2016, which broke the previous record of 53.4 million set in 2015.

Ohio turnpikeThe turnpike said that during 2016 it recorded the second-most number of vehicle miles traveled in its history at 3.037 billion, which was 2.6 million less than the record set in 2006.

Turnpike officials attributed the increase in travel to an improving economy, relatively low gas prices and mild weather.

During 2016 the turnpike said it posted a 2.2 percent gain in the percentage of vehicles that used E-ZPass®.

In 2016, 57.1 percent of all vehicles used E-ZPass, saving an average of 33 percent on tolls compared to cash-paying customers. Tolls for E-ZPass customers are less than for most cash-paying vehicles.

During 2016 the turnpike saw an 8.8 percent gain in the number of passenger cars using E-ZPass and a 3.1 percent rise in the number of commercial vehicles using it.

Turnpike to Inspect Bridge with Drone

August 17, 2016

The Ohio Turnpike will use a drone to inspect a bridge over the Sandusky River in mid-September.

Ohio turnpikeIt will be the first use of a drone to inspect a Turnpike bridge and is being done in part due to the size of the bridge and the difficulty of inspecting it by hand. The bridge measures 970 feet  in length by 102 feet in width.

Turnpike Executive Director Randy Cole said he became determined to use a drone for bridge inspection after seeing inspectors dangling from snooper trucks while examining the Turnpike bridge over the Cuyahoga River Valley. A snooper truck has a bucket attached to an arm that extends under a bridge.

“We hope to determine if the use of a drone may reduce the time and expense and increase safety when performing these types of inspections on the turnpike and on the ODOT system,” Cole said.

Results of the drone inspections will be compared with those done by conventional means.

“It’s safer for our motorists. It’s safer for the people doing it. What we want to validate is that the data is as good or better than we would get by human visual inspection,” Cole said.

Cole noted that when snooper trucks are inspecting a bridge some traffic lanes are closed and a work zone is established. Use of a drone will eliminate the need to close lanes and establish a work zone.

Cole also raised the possibility of using drones to inspect accidents, particularly in instances in which traffic backups make it difficult for first responders to reach the scene and when hazardous materials are involved.

Ohio Turnpike Rates Among Best in Survey

February 16, 2016

The Ohio Turnpike was recently named the highest-rated toll road in the United States in a peer review conducted by Fitch Ratings.

Ohio turnpikeThe turnpike was cited along with the Harris County Toll Road among 17 toll agencies in their peer group.

The rating criteria included resiliency of traffic volume, toll prices, ability to set rates, approach to infrastructure development and renewal, financial risk associated with the toll road’s debt structure and the level of financial flexibility to pay debt service.

The Ohio Turnpike ranked strongest due to a resilient traffic base, low toll rates and conservative debt structure.

Currently the turnpike carries a rating of AA for its senior lien revenue bonds and an A+ rating for its junior lien revenue bonds, according to Fitch Ratings.

Bridge Work to Begin on Turnpike Bridge

January 29, 2016

Construction will begin the week of Feb. 1 on a bridge deck replacement project on Ohio Route 83 (Avon-Belden Road) over the Ohio Turnpike in North Ridgeville.

Ohio turnpikeMotorist can expect daily lane closures on Route 83 as construction crews close the southbound lane and maintain one-way traffic over the bridge.

That traffic will be controlled by traffic lights.

The northbound lane will be closed the week of March 28 and one-way traffic will be maintained over the bridge.

Kokosing Construction has the contract to perform the work. For ongoing updates visit

Ohio Turnpike Sets $143.5M 2016 Capital Budget

January 23, 2016

The Ohio Turnpike plans to spend $143.5 million this year for capital improvements, which officials said is the largest capital budget in 15 years.

The program will include base pavement replacement, bridge rehabilitation and repairs, and resurfacing of the 241-mile toll road.

In 2015, the Turnpike spent $125 million on capital improvements and this year’s budget is 20 percent larger than that.

Most of the funding for capital improvements comes from toll and concession revenues with another $15.3 million coming from bonds that were sold in 2013.

Among the projects slated for this year is replacing pavement in five-mile stretches in Lorain County from milepost 144.1 to 149.24 and in the eastbound lanes in Trumbull County from milepost 216.1 to 221. The opposite lanes in these sections were repaved in 2015.

In Erie County, five-mile long sections will also be replaced in the eastbound lanes from milepost 107.3 to 112.45 and in Portage County from milepost 186.35 to 191.39.

The new pavement replacements will cost $76 million while the resurfacing will cost $18.8 million.

Pavement set to be resurfaced includes between milepost 38.9 to 43.3 in Fulton County and between milepost 55.45 and 69.3 in Lucas and Wood counties.

Service plaza parking lots and the ramps at Exit 91-Fremont/Port Clinton are also scheduled for resurfacing.

The bridge repair and rehabilitation budget is $15.7 million and will include deck replacements, bridge rehabilitation, and substructure repair at various sites, including 10 deck replacements at milepost 21.4 in Williams County, at mileposts 23.9, 24.4, 27.3, 41.9, 42.4 and 42.9 in Fulton County, at milepost 150.5 in Lorain County and at mileposts 197.8 and 198.5 in Portage County.

Eleven bridges will be repaired and rehabilitated from milepost 197.8 to 236.7 in Portage, Trumbull and Mahoning Counties.