The Ohio Department of Transportation last week issued a request for qualifications from firms interested in partnering on the state’s first public-private partnership project, a $332 million bridge in downtown Cleveland.

Interested firms have until Dec. 21 to respond.

ODOT will narrow the respondents to three or fewer firms, which will then craft more specific proposals. The state hopes to tap a winning bidder by summer 2013, with construction starting in late 2013 or early 2014, the department said.

The private team will pay up-front demolition and construction costs and Ohio will repay the costs, starting around 2015 through 2019.

It’s the first of a series of possible P3s for ODOT, officials said.

“We must innovate and we must seek out new ways of generating money in order to deliver these large transportation projects that communities want and need in order to continue our state’s economic recovery and create jobs,” said Jerry Wray, ODOT’s director.

The project comes a year after the Ohio General Assembly passed a law authorizing P3s for transportation projects as part of the 2012-2013 transportation budget.

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