CLEVELAND -- The State of Ohio will use a new public-private partnership to fund construction of the second Innerbelt Bridge.
Governor John Kasich made the announcement in Cleveland near the site where the first span of the two-bridge project is currently being built.
"This is the first time in the history of the state that this public private partnership is being deployed," Kasich announced. "This has never happened before."
The new funding plan calls for private dollars to be used now, so that work can begin on the second bridge on time in 2014 with completion slated for 2016. Once completed, the state will reimburse the builder with appropriate interest.
"I have very little doubt this will go forward," Kasich said, confidently. "It's possible at the last minute the markets will shut down and nobody's interested, but not only did the companies involved in construction test the market, but we and the Department of Transportation tested it as well."
"It's a safe project and we believe it will work."
Ohio joins thirty other states that currently fund infrastructure projects in this manner. This is the first time such a process will be used in the state.
The plan allows Ohio to get the work started on the second part of the Innerbelt Bridge project but defer payment until 2016 when other funding sources, including the potential leasing of the Ohio Turnpike would provide more money for highway projects.
Earlier this year it was announced that the state may have to delay completion of the second bridge for seven years due to funding issues.
That was depressing news for businesses who depend on the Innerbelt Bridge to deliver them customers. Among them was Ricardo Sandoval, owner of two Tremont restaurants.
"I added up that time, between the original estimate and when they said they didn't have the money, and said, oh my God, I'll be that old when it's finished," Sandoval smiled. "But this is the best news we have heard in a long time."
The deal to hasten completion of the critical Innerbelt Bridge project was a bi-partisal effort the whole way, according to elected offiicals from both parties who attended Thursday's announcement.
"It's a great day for all of Greater Cleveland," said State Senator Tom Patton, a Republican, and chairman of the Ohio Senate Transportation Committee.
"There's no such thing as a Democratic bridge or a Republican bridge," added Cleveland Ward 13 Councilman Joe Cimperman, a Democrat.
Republican Governor Kasich also thanked Democratic State Representative Bill Patmon of Cleveland for prodding him to keep the timely completion of the second span of the Innerbelt Bridge a priority for his administration.
"Before I was even sworn into office he comes to me and says, 'we've got to have that Innerbelt Bridge,' didn't you?" Kasich said to Patmon, while welcoming him to the podium.
"Yes, I did," Patmon replied.
"He worked me over pretty good," Kasich countered, turning to the reporters and assembled public officials.
Then he nodded to Patmon, "Well, you got your bridge, man."