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Published: Wednesday, 8/13/2003

Study to look at more than turnpike tolls

The Ohio Turnpike has made numerous capital improvements over the last several years, including the third lane, new service plazas, upgraded maintenance facilities, toll plaza renovations, and the addition of seven interchanges since 1993.

All of these improvements will cost the turnpike approximately $1.5 billion by the time the project is complete. Much of the funding for these improvements was borrowed by issuing bonds, which are repaid through toll financing. In order to obtain a low fixed-interest rate and to secure these bonds, the commission developed an agreement (Master Trust Agreement) with our bondholders to maintain toll rates at levels sufficient to generate the revenue necessary to make our annual bond (loan) payments.

At first glance one would think that simply lowering tolls would attract more traffic to the turnpike and off of parallel routes, and since more traffic means more revenue then everyone is satisfied.

Unfortunately, it isn't enough to hypothesize that reducing tolls would generate enough additional traffic to offset lost revenue. Because of our obligation to bondholders to pay our debt, a study is necessary to ensure that any reduction in toll fees would generate enough additional traffic to meet our payment requirements.

Unfortunately, some truckers do not have a need to use the Ohio Turnpike simply because they are traveling to a destination that does not warrant use of the turnpike. Additionally, some truckers choose to avoid the turnpike due to weight restrictions. Every vehicle is weighed as it enters our toll facility, which deters overweight vehicles from taking the turnpike. Instead they take their chances on state routes where enforcement is minimal.

Also, we realize there is fierce competition in the trucking industry during this economic downturn and profit margins are extremely thin, especially for the independent truck owner-operators. Some truckers will avoid paying a toll unless the toll road or toll bridge is the only route available. Lower tolls will have no effect on these trucks or the overweight trucks that choose alternate routes.

So, while it may seem simple at a glance, we really do need to study these issues and find out what would attract trucks to the turnpike, if anything, and whether that added traffic would produce sufficient revenue to offset any losses caused by a change or reduction in tolls or other revenue sources.

Lastly, the proposed study will not just consider reduction of tolls, but will also examine other crucial issues, including electronic tolling, rebate of diesel fuel taxes collected for mileage traveled on the turnpike, removal of the patrol from the commission's operating budget, and returning the fuel tax to the turnpike for fuel sold on the turnpike. A whole host of incentives must be examined, which is why the proposed study is necessary.

GARY SUHADOLNIK

Executive Director

Ohio Turnpike Commission

A very easy solution to the truck problem

In response to the July 30 article about trucks not using the turnpike, the solution is very easy and does not need a quarter-million-dollar study.

Every egghead in the world wants to study this but, if you ask the working driver who runs the roadway and has to pay the turnpike tolls, he/she will give you these two remedies:

Number one is a 20 percent to 25 percent rate reduction on all class eight and nine tolls only.

Number two is to raise the speed limit for all vehicles to 65 mph.

As far as traffic goes - all Ohio roads are busy because of the increase in all traffic. As for state Sens. Teresa Fedor and Jeffry Armbruster's response to trucks using other state highways, I believe that truckers have a right to use them as long as they are obeying all traffic and ODOT laws.

After all, as a self-employed truck driver, I have paid approximately $14,000 in federal excise tax, $550 federal use tax per year, license fees, tire and fuel tax, etc. PUCO and the Highway Patrol are always working these roads (including some not mentioned in the article). Ms. Fedor and Mr. Armbruster's claim that no trucks get inspected and/or weighed on Rts. 224, 18, and 20 is a hoot. They need to look at the facts.

DUANE VORST

Columbus Grove, Ohio

Recent articles in the paper seem to make Toledo Public School teachers look disconnected and greedy. For example, the paper has tried to draw a direct line between the residence of a teacher and her attachment to the community in which she teaches. I live across from Waterville and teach in Toledo. I have been able to attend required meetings and events as well as other kid events that appeal to me. The drive is not a plus but the river view is splendid where I live so I make the drive.

Second, perhaps the paper might want to address the salary discrepancy that exists among the surrounding districts. A few years ago I checked and found that at my level of experience I was making between $7,000 and $8,000 less than my counterparts in Sylvania, Washington Local, and Perrysburg. So the health care package is a selling point for teachers. The administrators got a raise last year; perhaps, that explains their willingness to take on a co-pay.

Additionally, all teachers I know pump plenty of their personal money into their classrooms. I am close to retirement but purchased things for my room this summer that total about $100. At the end of the year, it will be considerably more. How many citizens pay out of pocket to decorate their offices or to get items that will supplement the tasks they have been assigned?

Lastly, I would like to see more of this kind of parental involvement: getting youngsters up in time to get to school, making them eat a good breakfast, supervising homework, and providing their children with basic supplies for use at home and school.

PAULA HUDECEK

Perrysburg

Kelly Heidbreder's recent column on keeping rabbits out of your garden contained many useful hints. However, her advice to “let your pets roam around outside” was incredibly wrong-headed and harmful.

With all the recent publicity regarding feral cats, as well as owned cats who are allowed to “roam outside,” this is the last thing people need to be told! Steve Pollick recently wrote an extensive article railing against the devastation done to wildlife by cats (although dogs do their share also). As a volunteer at Nature's Nursery Wildlife Rehab Center, I've seen the staff spend countless hours trying to save rabbits, including babies “chased down” as Ms. Heidbreder put it, by unsupervised cats and dogs. These pets also kill songbirds as well as the nuisance animals the gardener is trying to get rid of.

Hopefully, readers will use the less lethal suggestions listed in this article, and ignore the inappropriate advice to sic their pets on the local wildlife.

BETTY WEILANT

Perrysburg

I am a licensed massage therapist specializing in neuromuscular therapy that addresses restrictive movements, migraine headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, dysfunction from work-related repetitive actions, trauma, and structural imbalance or deviations, just to name a few.

I am licensed by the state medical board, which also licenses physicians, chiropractors, and physical therapists, yet we have been placed under the same division of “Personal Care Services” as those who provide cosmetics, manicures, and pedicures.

My clients continue to come to me so they can work and continue to live a better life physically. Obviously Governor Taft needs to educate himself further on the modalities of massage, so he may better understand what we do. Our therapy could significantly keep health-care costs down in the future.

DEBORAH LUCK

Monroe Street

For whom the pike tolls

A $250,000 study to figure out how to get the truckers back on the turnpike. Dash, do you think lowering the toll might help?

CHARLIE LEININGER

Woodville



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