Earlier this month, U.S. Department of Transportation withdrew a $1.5 million federal grant to help Ohio officials determine if it would make economic sense to lease the Ohio Turnpike.
Now, news reports state the federal transportation agency would provide the grant after Ohio's application is revised.
Whether leasing the turnpike to a private entity would make financial sense indeed may deserve in-depth research. We certainly wouldn't advocate privatizing the 241-mile toll road without a thorough study.
But spending federal dollars on such a study does not make fiscal sense. While the turnpike has interstate signage, it does not - according to the turnpike - get federal funding. Any stake the federal highway administration would have in the issue is not readily apparent.
State Planning and Research program.
Even using funds states are required to set aside in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act for planning and research activities is a stretch. The act requires states to earmark funds for research, development and technology - but the emphasis is on practical uses of new technology.
The idea of privatizing the turnpike stems from a suggestion by Gov. John Kasich that a long-term lease of the Ohio Turnpike could raise money to pay of the toll road's debt, help repair roads, bridges and fund other transportation projects in the turnpike corridor.
Again, using funds from the state planning and research program to assess the economic viability of such a lease seems like a stretch.
When the funding was rescinded, Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jerry Wray said state money could be used to determine whether leasing the turnpike makes sense financially.
That sounds like a better idea - provided officials can determine whether using state funds for such a study would make sense.