ODOT Retools Plan to Privatize Rest Areas

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The state is temporarily putting the brakes on its plan to privatize rest areas on state routes, after a deadline for potential developers passed with no one showing any interest. Eleven developers had asked the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) about the privatization plans, but when it came time to submit proposals, none of them did. ODOT director Jerry Wray spoke about that with Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler.

WRAY: "Well, the first thing we did was put out a request for qualifications and we had a considerable amount of interest. But then when we opened the request, or tried to open the request, we didn't get any. So, we're going to go back to the marketplace and say 'Okay, what's the problem here? Why isn't this good? Why isn't this of interest?' And see if we can't go again and do a better job. One of the things that I believe might have been of concern is that it was an all or nothing type of package. So, even if you wanted to engage in the marketplace in one or two of the rest areas, you had to take them all and maintain them. So, we're going to go back and see what we can do to improve that...we're also going to look at other areas around the state and continue to pursue this and we'll see how it comes out. Again, the whole idea is to go to the marketplace and see what we can do."

KASLER: "And you're still confident that you can raise a significant amount of money this way?"

WRAY: "We believe we can. First of all, there's the reduction in maintenance that we would gain and there's also the revenue that we might bring in. We don't know until we go to the marketplace and they tell us."

ODOT wants to convert 59 non-interstate rest areas into privately run service plazas, where motorists could buy fuel, food and other things in one stop. The agency, which is dealing with a budget hole of 1.6 billion dollars, was hoping to raise as much as 50 million dollars a year through the privatization of those areas.

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