Ohio sells ad space on interstate safety vans

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CLEVELAND (AP) — Ohio will receive $850,000 a year after striking a deal with State Farm to place advertising on vans that help stranded motorists.

The national insurer has inked a four-year contract with the Ohio Department of Transportation that gives the company sponsorship rights for the agency's safety patrol vehicles. The contract could be extended to a total of 10 years.

As many as 20 of the vans cruise major interstates in search of stranded motorists, helping them change tires, jump-start batteries and provide fuel and coolant. The vans patrol freeways around Cincinnati, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Akron-Canton from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

ODOT spokesman Steve Faulkner said the deal with Bloomington, Illinois-based State Farm is part of the state's effort to raise money for road and bridge repairs as its main funding source, state and federal fuel tax money, has begun to level off for the first time.

"People are driving more fuel-efficient vehicles, are using public transportation more and are driving electric cars," Faulkner said. "Those are great things, but they will have an impact on our bottom line."

In addition to wrapping the vans with State Farm advertising, the company's logo will be added to driver uniforms and on signs alerting motorists that the freeway safety service is available on the routes they are driving.

ODOT's safety patrol program helped more than 90,000 motorists in 2013.

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