Ohio Governor John R. Kasich, left, and ODOT District 2 deputy director Todd Audet speak during a news conference at the Modern Builders Supply, Inc. in Toledo.
The Blade/Lori King
Ohio Gov. John Kasich returned today to the central Toledo business where he announced plans 16 months ago to bankroll highway improvements statewide with Ohio Turnpike toll financing to kick off a 2014 construction season heavily dependent on those funds.
"We're starting to be on the move in this state. It's pretty exciting," the governor said during an Ohio Department of Transportation news conference at Modern Builders' Supply, on Phillips Avenue near I-75, to formally announce a statewide program of 936 construction projects with combined contracts estimated at $2.5 billion.
PHOTO GALLERY: Kasich kicks off highway campaign
This year's program will include the June starts of widening I-75 between Perrysburg and Findlay, a three-year project expected to cost about $260 million, plus a $28 million I-75 reconstruction between Dorr Street and Central Avenue in Toledo, $31 million in improvements to I-475/U.S. 23 in Toledo's western suburbs, and the $18 million McCord Road Underpass in Holland.
"This is about increased safety and jobs, about reduced congestion and jobs, about increased growth, commerce, development -- and jobs," ODOT Director Jerry Wray said after noting the statewide program will be the largest in department history.
Without Mr. Kasich's "bold and courageous" initiative to borrow $1.5 billion backed by the Ohio Turnpike's future toll collections, Mr. Wray said, most it wouldn't be happening until many years in the future.
Modern Builders' Supply was where Mr. Kasich in December, 2012 announced his administration's decision to borrow against the toll road rather than lease it to a private operator as a way to "leverage" its value to pay for construction projects.
Before legislative action last year, turnpike revenues were restricted to being used only for turnpike projects, but now may be spent on other roads deemed to have a "nexus" to the toll road.
The use of turnpike funding, in turn, allows ODOT's traditional fuel-tax revenue stream to be devoted to other road improvements -- principally roads farther from the turnpike, but also including the state's contribution to work like the McCord project, which will replace a busy railroad crossing with a railroad bridge over the road.
"I'm just thrilled with what's happening with infrastructure in Ohio, and we didn't have to raise anybody's taxes," Mr. Kasich said.
Larry Leggett, chairman of Modern Builders' Supply's board, said the construction kickoff is "a good sign that the transportation system for northwest Ohio and Toledo is on the rise" and remarked that safe, convenient roads are important both for his company's deliveries and its customers' access to its stores.
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