By WAYNE ALLEN
PDT Staff Writer
The Ohio Department Of Transportation (ODOT) announced this week the formation of the Division of Innovative Delivery. The new division will focus on finding alternative forms of funding for road and bridge projects. Using a public-private partnership (P3) approach.
With the passage of House Bill 114, the Ohio Legislature gave ODOT the ability to enter into public-private partnerships on transportation projects. According to ODOT, the Portsmouth Bypass could be the first P3 project in the state.
Public-private partnerships, ODOT says, allow the agency to work with the private sector in developing new and innovative ways to develop, finance, maintain or operate a transportation facility.
ODOT announced earlier in the year the Portsmouth Bypass project would likely use the P3 process.
“If it works out that a P3 is able to be obtained for this (Portsmouth Bypass) it would be a great thing for Portsmouth and the economic engine of southern Ohio,” ODOT Press Secretary Steve Faulkner said.
ODOT officials have expressed concerns on the way major transportation projects are funded throughout the state. According to ODOT, planning, design and construction of various phases totaling $2 billion is underway. ODOT estimates $100 million per year to spend on new construction.
“The state is facing a serious budget crisis when it comes to funding new projects. We’ve said all along it’s up to us as a state to be innovative and find alternative funding solutions; that’s exactly what we are doing with P3,” Faulkner said. “The Portsmouth Bypass is an extremely good candidate for a potential P3 opportunity. When some people think of P3 they think of toll roads; that’s not what we are talking about.”
ODOT estimates the three phases of the Portsmouth Bypass will cost $650 million. ODOT has secured necessary funding for phase one.
“Given our current funding situation, who knows when we would have the money for phases two and three. What we are looking at is the opportunity to work with a private company that could build all three phases at once,” Faulkner said.
He said a private contractor could benefit by funding the project up front, then taking the $20 million a year in Appalachian Regional Development money until the project is paid off.
That money can only be used for specific Appalachian highways, which in Ohio are routes 23 and 50. Since the bypass would be an extension of U.S. 23, Faulkner said, the bypass would qualify for that funding.
“The P3 process is so new, we can’t assess any kind of a time frame for doing this. Exploring options with members of the private sector and seeing what interest is out there is going to take time,” said Kathleen Fuller, ODOT District 9 spokeswoman. “As we are looking at all of the options, everything is on the table, nothing is off the table. If someone has something that’s innovative and unique that will work for this project it would be considered. This does not mean we are going down a toll road route, it means we are looking at all possibilities.”
Fuller said ODOT should have some indication if a P3 would be possible for the Portsmouth Bypass by late summer or early fall.
Earlier this year, ODOT expedited the Ironton-Russell Bridge project through the P3 process without any success.
In January, ODOT awarded a contract to Brayman Construction Corporation for $81.3 million to replace the aging bridge.
According to Fuller, crews have begun environmental work and have clearing the right of way on what will be the Kentucky approach.
She said a ceremonial groundbreaking will be held in April to officially start construction.
Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 208, or email@example.com.