New Gov. John Kasich said again last week that he is considering leasing the Ohio Turnpike, a move that could bring in $2.4 billion. Of that, the state would have to pay off $600 million of outstanding debt, which would need to be defeased in the event of privatization.
The Republican governor, who took office in January after defeating incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland, said he would use the money to attract new business to the state, according to local papers.
The 241-mile Turnpike is Ohio’s only toll road. It is considered a critical link in the nation’s interstate highway system.
It issues debt through the double-A rated Ohio Turnpike Commission, among the highest-rated toll roads in the country. It is a relatively rare issuer that last sold new-money bonds in 2001.
In related news, the head of the OTC said Monday he plans to retire April 1.
George Distel, a Democrat, became the commission’s director in April 2008 under then-Gov. Strickland. He said he was not asked to leave by Kasich — who is expected to name a replacement soon — but was ready to retire.
Under Distel’s tenure, the Turnpike Commission installed an automated tolling system and refinanced its outstanding debt several times to achieve savings.