Ohio's senators set in motion Wednesday Gov. John Kasich's plan to raise $1.5 billion for highway and bridge projects by bonding against the Ohio Turnpike and on a proposal that would increase the speed limit to 70 mph on rural interstate highways.
But before any of that happens, the Ohio House must either sign off on changes senators made to the transportation bill or take it to a committee to work out differences in the measure.
The House already approved the turnpike plan, but the Senate added a provision that guarantees 90 percent of the turnpike bond sale will go to projects in northern Ohio - specifically within 75 miles of the turnpike.
Many northern Ohio lawmakers wanted the guarantee, saying that it was only fair, since northern Ohioans pay a large share of the tolls on the 241-mile turnpike that connects the Toledo, Cleveland and Youngstown areas.
''We made some very significant and important improvements to this bill, particularly for northern Ohio,'' said Democrat Capri Cafaro, who helped pass the bill 27-6.
Cafaro said that getting the 90 percent guarantee and definition of the word ''nexus'' in the House version, which resulted in the Senate putting in the 75 mile radius, were ''major drivers'' toward getting her support.
Lawmakers in the House, though, earlier rejected attempts for a similar guarantee. The Kasich administration has said it will deliver on that idea, but also said putting precise spending targets in the law would limit flexibility.
On the issue of toll increases, Cafaro said, ''We did make some progress, but certainly could do more.''
The Senate version of the bill also calls for freezing toll rates for local E-ZPass users through 2023 on trips of 30 miles or less. It does not cap tolls for other motorists.
Not capping tolls for other motorists, said Sen. Joe Schiavoni, opens non E-ZPass users to potentially large toll increases.
Schiavoni, D-Canfield, said senators ''added clarity'' to the House bill with the changes made that will make sure some of those road projects in northern Ohio will be funded, but he disliked capping tolls for just those short-trip E-ZPass users.
Instead, he wanted and sought to amend the bill to cap all tolls at the rate of inflation for the next 10 years.
''At least people would know they are not going to see some sort of giant increase in tolls,'' said Schiavoni, who voted ''no'' because of the unresolved toll issue.
The bill includes a tax credit offering for anyone traveling any distance using E-ZPass if tolls increase above the rate of inflation, Cafaro said.
The other main change passed in the bill by the Senate was the speed limit increase.
The legislation would bump up the speed limit by 5 mph for both cars and trucks. The state's department would set the maximum speed limit for interstate freeway outerbelts in cities at 65 mph and on freeways in congested areas at 55 mph.