Public-Private Partnerships…Innovative Approach to Infrastructure Funding for the Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge

Ohio RoadwaysOhioans in general – and Cleveland residents in particular – got some great news recently from ODOT and the Governor’s office.  In a joint announcement on August 23, Gov. John Kasich and ODOT Director Jerry Wray unveiled an innovative financing plan that could have Cleveland’s second Inner Belt Bridge up and running by 2016. The announcement was significant because, earlier this year, ODOT had projected that construction of the second Cleveland Innerbelt Bridge probably wouldn’t be completed until at least 2019.

The new plan uses a Public-Private Partnership or P3, an innovative solution that allows private sector participation in public sector projects.  ODOT selects a single team that will design, build and finance the $332 million Inner Belt Bridge project.  The state will then pay for the bridge in installments over several years.   In the conventional public sector construction model, the state makes sure tax dollars are actually set aside for this sort of major transportation project.  ODOT then bids out the design and construction work separately.

Although Public-Private Partnerships have been used successfully in many states, the second Inner Belt Bridge project deploys the concept in Ohio for the first time.  It’s a smart approach that becomes even more attractive when considered as part of a long term solution for funding Ohio’s infrastructure.

The new Federal Transportation law will keep money flowing to the states for highway and bridge improvements for the next two years.  But Congress will face the same long term funding questions once again in 2014.  The Federal gas tax has not been increased since 1993 and, at the state level, Ohio’s gas tax has stood at $0.28 per gallon since 2005.  Looking ahead, the trend toward greater fuel-efficiency and alternative fuels may reduce the revenue generated from gas taxes overall.  Meanwhile our roads and bridges have endured many years of wear and tear. Maintenance and restoration is a must.

So when you consider the big picture for transportation funding, it’s clear that innovative financing ideas like Public-Private Partnerships need to be a part of Ohio’s plan.  It’s great to see it start with Cleveland’s Inner Belt Bridge.

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