Ohio seeks advisors for $2.5bn turnpike privatisation

Ohio opened up the possibility of leasing the 241-mile toll road earlier this year. Now the state’s Department of Transportation is looking for a consultant to advise on the potential concession and help select a private partner.

The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is looking for a consultant to advise the state on the potential privatisation of the 241-mile Ohio Turnpike.

ODOT issued a request for letters of interest from potential consultants this week. The prospective consultant will first assess the economic value of a potential lease of the toll road and evaluate the turnpike’s current management and operation, according to the request for letters of interest.  The second and third phases of the consultant’s work will include assisting ODOT in developing bid invitations, determining a selection process for potential private partners, negotiating the final  contract, and providing “perspectives on the [public-private partnership] initiative and infrastructure markets for both equity and debt”.

A separate authority known as the Ohio Turnpike Commission manages the road, but ODOT was given the authority to lease the Turnpike through a provision in the two-year, $56 billion state budget that Ohio Republican Governor John Kasich signed on June 30. Kasich said in a press conference at the time that the Turnpike lease could help the state to make “desperately” needed infrastructure investments.

Kasich has previously estimated that the state could net $2.5 billion from the lease. The Turnpike’s toll revenues totalled $232.2 million last year, according to the Ohio Turnpike Commission’s 2010 annual report.

David Rose, a spokesperson for ODOT, said the legislature does not need to make any further changes to enable a potential lease. The legislature will need to approve a final request for proposals for any public-private partnership or lease, but the final project agreement will not require legislative approval.

Responses from potential consultants are due on August 24, and ODOT expects to publish a shortlist by September 2. The date for choosing a consultant has not been determined, according to the request for letters of interest.