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Ohio Turnpike tolls increasing on Jan. 1; truckers opposed

Truck drivers paying cash for a one-way trip across the length of the turnpike will be charged $61 — up $6 beginning on Jan. 1.

The Associated Press

12/21/2011

BEREA, Ohio — Some tolls on the Ohio Turnpike will increase at the beginning of next year for the first time in more than two years despite objections from truck drivers.

Truck drivers paying cash for a one-way trip across the length of the turnpike will be charged $61 — up $6 beginning on Jan. 1.

Drivers of cars traveling the same distance will pay $16.50, an increase of $1.50. Those using the E-ZPass electronic toll system will pay $11.25 for that same cross-state trip, up from $10.25.

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The Ohio Turnpike Commission said Tuesday that the price increase was approved in 2009, before the last increase that accompanied the launch of E-ZPass. Vehicles not using the system were charged more when it was introduced in the fall of 2009.

Some drivers who only travel between one or two exits won't see any toll increases.

The 241-mile turnpike connects Pennsylvania and Indiana and crosses through northern Ohio.

Turnpike officials say the toll increase is needed to ensure the health of future budgets and continue paying off the toll road's debt, which stood at $600 million at the beginning of 2011. The turnpike collected a record $232 million in tolls last year.

The Ohio Trucking Association opposed the rate increases and warned that many truck drivers would avoid the turnpike and drive on secondary roads.

Many independent drivers who pay for tolls out of their own pockets already use other roads, while trucking companies prefer their drivers take the turnpike across northern Ohio because it's faster.

The turnpike increased its speed limit to 70 mph in April from 65 mph, hoping it would lure trucks back to the toll road from parallel routes that run through smaller communities and may be less suited for large vehicle traffic.

Ohio is exploring the possibility of leasing the toll road, and Republican Gov. John Kasich has said he believes it could bring several billion dollars to the financially ailing state. The governor has said that money could help pay for new road and bridge projects.

Critics say leasing the road could bring higher tolls and less maintenance on the road.

Kevin Jones of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at kevinj@thetrucker.com.

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