The Ohio Department of Transportation has begun soliciting bids from anyone interested in sponsoring one or more of the 101 rest areas along the state's highways and freeways.
"This new program will help us do two things: reduce the amount of money ODOT spends on rest-area maintenance, and generate new money we can use to pay for some of the major construction projects communities have told us they want," department Director Jerry Wray said.
The program "demonstrates that ODOT is serious about ... seeking innovative and alternative funding sources to pay for road construction in Ohio," Mr. Wray said.
The transportation department spends between $30 million and $50 million annually for rest-area maintenance, including electricity, heating, water, and sewage.
Department officials said sponsorships and advertising revenue "will help ODOT offset a portion" of those expenses as well as provide funds for road improvements.
The Kasich administration is spending more than $3 million in federal and state funds to assess options for leasing the Ohio Turnpike, outsourcing its maintenance, or combining it with the department of transportation, with a consultants' report expected late this year.
The transportation department also is considering commercialization options for rest areas not along interstate highways as well as naming-rights offers for state-owned transportation assets as possible revenue sources.
The transportation department said the additional revenues will help it close a $1.6 billion "budget hole" announced early this year that prompted postponements of numerous highway improvement projects.
In the Toledo area, delayed projects include the McCord Road underpass in Holland and the final phase of rebuilding the I-75/I-475 junction in central Toledo.