CHICAGO — The Ohio Department of Transportation announced that it has formed a new division dedicated to ramping up the state’s privatization efforts in an effort to lower costs and find new funding sources.

Ohio faces a shortfall of up to $2 billion on transportation infrastructure projects, officials have said.

ODOT will consider a number of privatization proposals, including the sale or long-term lease of various state-owned assets and entering into public-private partnerships to finance transportation ­projects.

Department director Jerry Wray said the new Division of Innovative Delivery could save the state $200 million annually and raise “billions” of dollars of new money.

“ODOT shares the desire of many communities to get local transportation projects finished more timely, but our current funding situation simply will not allow it,” Wray said in a statement announcing the division. “That is why it is crucial to come together as policy leaders and seek out innovative and alternative funding solutions in the days, months, and years to come.”

The new division will research privatization plans for the Ohio Turnpike and Ohio’s 59 non-interstate rest areas, as well as a sponsorship plan for state-owned assets such as the rest areas, bridges, interchanges, and sections of highway, the department said.

The state will also look into partnering with private firms to launch or complete several transportation projects, including the Brent Spence Bridge on the Ohio River from Cincinnati to northern Kentucky, a long-stalled $2.4 billion project, as well as an interchange on Interstate 71 in Delaware County.

ODOT hired Jim Riley, a longtime private-sector consultant on P3 projects, to head the new division.

Riley joins from the Chicago office of the consulting firm Halcrow, which he joined in September 2010 as vice president of highway infrastructure, traffic, and tolls.

The division will release a full list of potential P3 projects later this year, ODOT said. 

Republican Gov. John Kasich has made privatization proposals a top priority.

The state’s current $54 billion, two-year budget relies on the long-term lease of the state’s lucrative liquor distribution system to a newly created nonprofit group, as well as the sale of several state prisons.

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