A contract considered Monday by the Ohio Controlling Board would pay KPMG Corporate Finance LLC $2.85 million to study the potential for privatizing the Ohio Turnpike - and rest stops along highways in the state.
We wish the state luck in spinning-off its rest areas. We mean that sincerely.
That's because maintaining the 101 rest areas along interstate and non-intersate highways costs the state between $30 million and $50 million per year. If the state could divest itself of that responsibility, regardless of potential income from a lease agreement, that money could be used to maintain roads and bridges instead.
But, unless the consultant is adding an evaluation of rest areas as a bonus with the turnpike study, the state could save some funds simply by closing most, if not all, those rest stops.
Certainly, long-haul truck drivers find rest areas useful for, well, resting. But most motorists use them for rest room breaks. And a glance at a map showing locations of rest stops in Ohio reveals them to be not far from freeway interchanges that are flanked by gas stations, restaurants and, often, lodging.
In essense, private rest areas already have developed along Ohio's four-lane highways, largely making state-run rest stops redundant. Perhaps privately run areas could cater to over-the-road truckers, but it would be a pleasant surprise to find businesses willing to operate rest areas.
Again, though, the state transportation department easily could find a use for another $30 million to $50 million annually.