Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ohio Considers Road Repair Privatization

Stung by delays in long term reauthorization of the federal Highway Trust Fund, Ohio transportation officials are considering privatizing certain road maintenance tasks as a way of saving precious construction dollars in state transportation budgets, and also looking to sell naming rights for roads and bridges, and commercial developments at rest stops, as revenue raising measures. Ohio DOT Director Jerry Wray said in a speech to a gathering of ODOT employees, contractors, legislators and local officials: “We cannot wait for Washington to send more money. We have to focus on what we control and what we can change now in Ohio.”

Deputy Director Jim Riley, hired to spearhead a new division that will manage privatization efforts, proposes handing “fence to fence” responsibility  for snow plowing, pothole repair, dead animal removal, lane marker painting, salting, and resurfacing to private contractors on I-270 and a 100 mile stretch of I-71 between Columbus and Cincinnati. ODOT currently spends $8.3 million annually on these tasks. Payroll reductions through attrition should avoid layoffs of ODOT workers when a private contractor takes over this responsibility, Riley said.

Though there is no specific predicted cost savings to the state from the proposed privatization, ODOT annually spends $5,253.00 per lane mile of paved state, federal and Interstate highways within its borders. Officials hope maintenance privatization, combined with new revenue raisers from private naming rights and rest area concessions, can offset current reductions and delays in federal funding, and permit the state to pursue its $1.6 billion in planned new construction projects.

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