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Published: Monday, 8/27/2012

Residents speak out about leasing turnpike

BY GABRIELLE RUSSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER

About 100 people packed into a Maumee town hall meeting tonight to get the latest update and share their opinions on the ongoing debate over privatizing the Ohio Turnpike.

Those who spoke out against the highway’s privatization drew heavy applause at the meeting, which was attended by U.S Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), an outspoken opponent of leasing the turnpike who also spoke at the meeting.

“It’s safe. It’s well-maintained. I always know it’s going to be plowed,” said Karen Rothman, 60, a Perrysburg librarian, an audience member who spoke during the meeting. “I don’t think we should sell it [the turnpike] off, because it will not be maintained.”

Tonight's meeting was about the 80th public forum held statewide since April, 2011, as officials wait the results of a $3.4 million state study to weigh options for the turnpike’s ownership.

The study, examining the turnpike’s finances, road conditions and the legal steps for potentially changing its operations, is expected to be completed by the end of the year, said Ohio Department of Transportation director Jerry Wray during the meeting.

“This is a study to look at the freaking options,” said Linda Stacy, 65, an educational consultant from Sylvania, another audience member. “My God, have an open mind, folks.”

Proponents of Gov. John Kasich’s plan for privatization say leasing the turnpike to a private operator could be a money maker to fund construction projects for the state’s cash-strapped transportation department.

Critics argue the turnpike belongs to northwest Ohio residents and is too important of an economic-development tool to turn over to a private operator.

The Lucas County Board of Commissioners ran the meeting, which was standing room-only.

“We should’ve gotten a bigger building,” county board President Pete Gerken said.



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