Smart mobility, technology and transportation have long been Ohio priorities. Under the direction of Governor DeWine, our mission is to make those advances available to the public to benefit drivers as quickly as possible as our state shifts to alternative fuels.
The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program is different from other DOT projects in that construction is completed on private property, the private sector owns and operates the equipment and revenue is collected. Combined with the Ohio Department of Transportation goals to be first to market and have open site selection, this resulted in one of the most creative, innovative approaches to project delivery we have ever undertaken.
Over the next several years, Ohio will receive $140 million in formula funding to install direct-current fast chargers (DCFC) along 1,867 miles of 15 Federal Highway Administration-designated alternative fuel vehicle corridors in our state. Like other states, Ohio's EV infrastructure deployment plan calls upon the private sector to install, operate, and maintain the charging stations.
Before NEVI rules had been finalized, we initiated a public-private partnership, or P3, procurement for EV charging stations on Oct. 31, 2022. We had two reasons for our aggressive approach. First, we wanted to minimize supply chain disruptions. Second, we wanted to get ahead of workforce shortages.
Our reason for open site selection? It generates competition. A competitive bidding environment would help us accelerate our EV infrastructure deployment program. And, the best way to attract vendors in Ohio is to give them as much freedom as possible in how they approach each installation site. Unlike other states that have restricted the interchanges available for bidding to optimize for 50-mile spacing, we allowed bids within 1 mile of any interstate exit not already served by existing EV chargers.
Adhering to our two objectives, we generated maximum market participation, a strong bidding environment and are on track to achieving our ultimate goal of handing over the ownership, operation and maintenance of NEVI-funded EV charging stations to the private sector as quickly as possible.
How we got here
In 2019 and early 2020, two years before NEVI funding was available, we took our first step in building a framework for a statewide EV charging network by conducting a statewide analysis of existing EV charging infrastructure for passenger and freight vehicles. We talked with the stakeholders necessary to make the program successful, mapped charger locations and identified the corridors where future infrastructure would be needed. Through the site analysis, we identified priority locations to enable intercity travel and support tourism at top state attractions to provide public exposure to EV charging and give state personnel experience with the technology.
Because our DOT was the first to begin procurement, it was important for us to work closely with the market in shaping an attractive request for proposals (RFP). After our analysis, we issued a request for information, which asked for feedback on the draft RFP. In addition to written feedback, we welcomed the opportunity to meet with any business interested in discussing the document.
Ultimately, we spoke with 33 potential bidders, who said they wanted flexibility in how they approached each site. And, although bundling multiple sites and delivering them with a cookie-cutter approach would have streamlined the number of contracts ODOT would have to award and administer, we, instead, chose to let each site apply as a separate project to give vendors maximum flexibility, per their request.
Our decision to provide maximum flexibility to the private sector by opening more interchange areas to bidding and to complete the environmental clearance in-house may seem like a small deviation from the norm, but these ideas were entirely original at the time. Because we could only formally contract with the winning bidders once we had conducted and received environmental and real estate clearance on the proposed sites, we decided to award contingency contracts, complete the environmental process and then enter into formal agreements.
When the request for proposals closed Jan. 18, 2023, the response far exceeded our expectations. We received 300 proposals from 30 high-quality bidders. Most bidders committed the required 20 percent local match, and in some cases, more than 20 percent.
Because we listened to the market and were willing to make some bold procedural changes, on July 13, 2023, Governor DeWine announced contingent awards for the first 27 sites on Ohio’s interstates that will be installed by 2024, bringing us closer to helping constituents make the shift to alternative fuel.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Executive Director of DriveOhio
Ohio Department of Transportation
Preeti is the Executive Director of DriveOhio for the Ohio Department of Transportation. She has a diverse background in systems engineering analyses, connected and automated vehicle strategic planning and programming and technology pilot deployments. Preeti has worked with transit and transportation agencies across the country to plan, deploy and promote innovative mobility solutions. She recently led Ohio’s connected and automated vehicle systems engineering analysis and helped develop the nation’s first statewide systems engineering guidebook for CV/AV technology deployments.
Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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