Highway policy: It shouldn't be this complicated

By Todd Spencer, OOIDA Executive VP

From about the beginning of time, man has recognized the need to be able to move people and things from point A to point B. I’m confident that after just a few tries, early travelers were able to conclude that some paths were better – safer and faster – than others.

It goes without saying that safer and faster should always be the top criteria for primitive paths and for modern highways.

So why all the anguish when policymakers recognize that speed limits should correspond to the designated speed of the roads they are on? People will always be people – and most of us will naturally drive close to the designed speed of a road regardless of what limits may be posted. And that’s not a bad thing.

There can be no denying that the Ohio Turnpike was built for speeds of 70 mph, as is some 98 percent of our nation’s interstate highway system. These higher speed routes are always the safest routes for truckers and travelers, and responsible public policy should encourage maximum use.

The Ohio Turnpike Commission should be applauded for their plans to raise the speed limit on the toll road. Anything they can do to encourage more vehicles to run the Pike as opposed to less safe parallel routes is good.

Arguing otherwise is a non-starter for me, but Turnpike officials should also acknowledge the other reality. Economics do play a big role in the decisions that truckers have to make every day and the net cost of running the Pike is a big factor, especially in the tight economics of trucking.

Reducing the tolls would make the road more user friendly and attractive. State lawmakers could lend a hand here as well. Not all that many years ago, the state allowed a credit on fuel tax reports for toll road miles.

The Turnpike is self-sustaining without the fuel taxes truckers now pay for turnpike miles – so what’s the justification, Ohio lawmakers? What’s fair is fair, what’s right is right, and what’s safer is safer. If we all give just a little, progress is made.

If common sense and simple decency aren’t persuasive enough, you might consider integrity. Some of us still remember the promise that Pike tolls would be eliminated completely in the late ’80s. LL