Fitch Ratings last week affirmed its AA rating on $590 million of revenue bonds issued by the Ohio Turnpike Commission and revised its outlook to stable from negative.
The outlook boost comes as the commission saw higher-than-expected debt service coverage and spending cuts in 2010 as well as projected revenue growth from a planned toll increase.
Most of the toll road’s future infrastructure costs are known, but it may need to replace the original concrete base of the roads. The project “could result in significant capital or debt needs in future years that are beyond current expectations,” Fitch warned.
Analysts noted that the turnpike is a key east-west connector, but that more than 50% of its revenues are dependent on commercial traffic, which tends to be economically sensitive.
Gov. John Kasich’s administration is considering privatizing the 241-mile turnpike, which is one of the largest and highest-rated toll roads in the country.
Ohio in early August issued a request for proposals seeking advisors to help explore privatization options. Kasich has said a 75-year lease could generate up to $3 billion.