CLEVELAND - Last week, an Ohio Department of Transportation advisory panel voted unanimously to move forward on its plan to delay dozens of new construction projects throughout the state.
The decision comes in the wake of a two billion dollar ODOT funding deficit.
For now, ODOT said they will not raise the gas tax, the department's primary source of revenue.
Instead, ODOT has stated they will focus on internal cost cutting measures such as tightening up operations, looking at how they design and implement projects and attrition.
ODOT’s Director Jerry Wray talked about the possibility of privatizing the turnpike and rest areas. The move would make Ohio the first state in the nation to privatize rest areas, something that could generate a significant annual income source.
According to ODOT, maintaining the rest areas along the turnpike costs 30 to 40 million dollars each year.
"My vision is that we would literally bulldoze down what is currently there and have so many acres of land available and we would have the private sector come in and put their stores in,” Wray explains. “We would have requirements that they would have to mow, put in restrooms, but we are trying to turn what is currently an expense into a revenue."
For now, any move to privatize the turnpike or rest areas is probably not going to come this year, an election year.
ODOT said lawmakers will probably wait until after the new term begins in 2013.
And again, the public can weigh in on all of this during ODOT's 45 day public comment period. Many have already spoken out. In fact, a separate citizen Facebook page has been created to generate support for the building of the second Innerbelt Bridge.
Visit http://www.facebook.com/finishthejob?sk=wall to post your comments.
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