New Ohio DOT wing will assess PPPs

The Ohio Department of Transportation has named a Halcrow Group consultant to head a department dedicated to exploring PPPs and alternative financing. The new office will focus primarily on surface transportation infrastructure.

Ohio carved out a niche wing in its department of transportation charged with exploring privatisation for its state road infrastructure, including the 241-mile Ohio Turnpike.

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) tapped consultant James Riley, Chicago-based vice president of highway infrastructure with Halcrow Group, to head the division of innovative delivery, a newly created unit within ODOT.

ODOT last year contracted Riley and Halcrow, a business unit of US construction and engineering firm CH2M HILL, to conduct a review on the potential for public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the Buckeye State, with particular regard to highway infrastructure.

Riley subsequently issued a report urging Ohio to consider road privatisation on a case-by-case basis.

The department has estimated $200 million annually could be saved by “leveraging” state-owned infrastructure and “exploring” PPPs. Riley will be charged with pinpointing potential “alternative” funding, ODOT said.

Riley, who has been titled deputy director for ODOT, is a 23-year private sector veteran who has been involved with project work in Illinois, Georgia, Texas and Virginia.

A review of Ohio’s potential transportation infrastructure PPPs, including the controversial parkway privatisation is ongoing.

In addition to the Ohio Parkway, the department is evaluating “alternative funding” for the Bret Spence Bridge, the Portsmouth Bypass, the Rickenbacker Intermodal Connector and a Delaware County interchange.

ODOT will also attempt to assess commercialising non-interstate rest area property, as well as weigh private sponsorship for state-owned property, which the department said could generate $75 million annually. The department under Jerry Wray, appointed ODOT director last year by Governor John Kasich, has been a vocal proponent of surface transportation PPPs.

Meanwhile, 2011’s plan to privatise the Ohio Turnpike has met with criticism on a state and national level.

ODOT is giving KPMG Corporate Finance a $2.85 million contract to evaluate a possible turnpike project, a cost that the department has defended.

The department selected KPMG from a shortlist in September that also included Citigroup Global Markets, Public Financial Management, Macquarie Capital and Morgan Stanley.