Based on America’s need and passion for highway transportation, a state department of transportation could be considered for Owner of the Year just about any year. That is particularly so in the Midwest, where the rich heritage of automobile transportation is only outweighed by the modern-day demands of commerce in the industrial and agricultural heartland.

For 2015 alone, the Ohio Dept. of Transportation (ODOT) had the seventh-largest construction start in ENR’s Midwest region; the public-private Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway in Portsmouth, undertaken by the Portsmouth Gateway Group (PGG), is valued at a state record $429 million. Additionally, the agency had at least six other starts for projects each valued in the $38-million to $132-million range, according to figures compiled by Dodge Data & Analytics.

“We have to move people and things,” said Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), currently competing for his party’s presidential nomination. “If we think outside the box and have the courage to change, which is important for Ohio, we can continue to do very well.”

In 2015, Kasich’s Jobs and Transportation Plan entered its third year with a projected investment of more than $2 billion in the state’s infrastructure, economy and jobs over the next several years. “People say if you put this road in here all these businesses will come,” the then-incoming governor said in late 2010, when he appointed Jerry Wray as ODOT director for the second time around. “I kinda look at things a little bit differently. Tell me who is coming, and then we’ll decide if we will put the road in.”

During his first run as ODOT director from 1991 to 1999, Wray was credited with increasing the construction program by $300 million from its output in the 1980s, while reducing operating costs by $200 million primarily through staff reduction, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Today employing about 50,000 people in 12 districts, ODOT is in the top 10 among state DOTs in lane-miles of both highways overall and Interstate highways in particular—the latter at 8,129 being enough to travel from Los Angeles to Washington 2.5 times.

Ohio has the second-largest inventory of bridges over 10 ft at 43,412, and its motorists log the fifth-highest miles traveled at almost 200 million annually.

Previous administrations overpromised big-ticket projects and left a $1.6-billion budget gap, much to the chagrin of community leaders, Kasich and ODOT officials said in 2012 as the current plan was about to kick off. “They raised Cain,” said Kasich, “and they should have.”

Highlights of ODOT’s 2015 construction program:

  • 297 bridge and culvert projects totaling $398 million
  • 278 pavement projects totaling $523 million
  • 219 safety projects totaling $250 million
  • 38 major construction projects totaling more than $1 billion
  • 81 county or municipal bridge replacements.

Some of the more prominent projects to either begin or continue in 2015:

  • The Portsmouth Bypass, aka the Southern Ohio Veterans Memorial Highway, the state’s first public-private partnership and its largest construction project to date
  • Phase 1 construction of the Opportunity Corridor (East 105th Street) in Cleveland
  • Rebuilding and expanding Interstate 75 from four to six lanes between Findlay and Perrysburg
  • A new interchange at State Route 16 and Cherry Valley Road in Licking County, east of Columbus
  • Pavement replacement on I-271 in Akron
  • Reconstruction of I-270 at the U.S. 33/SR 161 interchange in Columbus
  • Construction of a new I-71 interchange at Martin Luther King Boulevard in Cincinnati
  • Reconstructing the U.S. Route 23/I-270 area in Columbus with expanded lanes, an underground trench and redesigned interchange.

Multi-year projects wrapping up in 2015:

  • Railroad grade separation in the village of Wellington, southwest of Cleveland
  • Raising and replacing Cleveland Avenue bridges over I-270 in Columbus
  • Adding a third lane both east and west on I-70 near Springfield
  • Reconstruction of the I-275/SR 32 Interchange near Cincinnati.

ODOT’s largest investments are guided by a process developed by the ongoing Transportation Review Advisory Council, established in 1997.

ENR editors narrowly selected ODOT as the Midwest Owner of the Year over another Ohio entity earning kudos for its construction activity in 2015. The Cleveland Clinic started the $288-million Health Education Campus-CWRU Medical School project as well as the $40-million Holiday Inn hotel on the Cleveland Clinic Campus. Beyond the massive footprint in and around Cleveland, the Cleveland Clinic has facilities in Florida, Nevada, Canada and Abu Dhabi.