CHICAGO -- Ohio’s first public-private partnership advanced Wednesday when the state transportation department announced a shortlist of three firms that will vie for work on a $332 million bridge project in downtown Cleveland.

One of the teams is Walsh Construction, which last year was tapped as the team to work on a massive $1.2 billion bistate bridge project between Indiana and Kentucky.

ODOT also selected a team led by Kokosing Construction Company and one that includes Trumbull Corporation, The Great Lakes Construction Company and the Ruhlin Company.

It’s the first in a series of possible P3s for the state. ODOT last March launched a new department devoted to pursuing P3s as a way to drum up new revenue to help plug a $1.6 billion budget shortfall.

The state issued a request for qualifications last November seeking firms interested in the Cleveland bridge project.

The three finalists will now develop fuller proposals that include financial projections. The state expects to pick a final team by the summer, with construction starting late this year or early 2014, ODOT said.

The project will feature a design-build-finance structure. The final team will build and finance a portion of the estimated $330 million demolition and construction costs, and ODOT will pay the firms back over a fixed period of time. The state tentatively expects to pay the money back starting in 2015 through 2019, officials said.

“Even after paying finance charges on the borrowed money, ODOT is expected to save millions of dollars in public tax money because the longer the agency waits, the more expensive construction costs become and the more cash is needed to make repairs to the current, aging Innerbelt Bridge,” ODOT said in a press release, estimating that a 10-year delay could cost up to $89 million. “Plus, pursuing this plan means the bridge replacement project will be open to traffic in 2016 -- not 2025 as the department once estimated.”

The Innerbelt Bridge project includes replacing the current I-90 bridge with two new spans and expanding the number of lanes to 10 from eight. The state is currently replacing one of the bridges.

ODOT is also eying P3s for a $3 billion rebuild of the aging Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati, a $700 million bypass in southern Ohio, and an interchange for Interstate 71 in Delaware County.

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

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