House Bill 51 (Governor signed April 1, 2013.) This Bill authorizes the renamed Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission to issue revenue bonds payable from the revenues of the turnpike system for certain highway infrastructure projects in addition to turnpike projects. Eligible highway infrastructure projects include projects undertaken by or through the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) for the construction or improvement of public express or limited access highways, super highways or motorways, including bridges, tunnels, overpasses, underpasses, interchanges, entrance plazas, approaches and connecting public roads that serve interchanges. The Director of ODOT would submit requests for approval by the Commission to pay costs of eligible highway infrastructure projects that have previously been reviewed and recommended by the Transportation Review Advisory Council. Not less than 90% of the total cost of the funding requests submitted by the Director of ODOT must be for highway infrastructure projects portions of which are located within 75 miles of the Ohio turnpike system. The Commission is required to adopt rules establishing the process and criteria for approval of ODOT projects, with certain required criteria set forth in the Bill.
The Bill increases the Commission membership from nine to 10, of which six will be appointed by the Governor, with no more than three being members of the same political party. Newly appointed members will have terms of five years, compared to the current eight year terms. The Director of ODOT and the Director of OBM will continue as ex officio members, with the Director of ODOT now being a voting member.
The Bill imposes a freeze on E-ZPass tolls for trips on the Turnpike of 30 miles or less, authorizes the distribution of E-ZPass transponders through retail locations, including deputy registrars, and authorizes the Commission to establish rules for issuance of citations for evading payment of tolls. The Bill also increases the speed limits on interstate freeways from 65 to 70 miles per hour outside of urban areas, and to 65 miles per hour on outerbelts in urban areas and 55 miles per hour in congested areas, the designation of such areas to be determined by the Director of ODOT. The speed limit on all two lane state routes located outside of municipal corporations may be increased from 55 to 60 miles per hour if certain safety determinations are made by the Director of ODOT for eligible portions of those state routes.