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Road group pushes for more highway funds

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A coalition of highway supporters made a pitch Tuesday for increasing road funding by redirecting user fees that now go to other purposes, such as education.

``We have a problem with allocation of funds to our highway system,'' said Leonard B. West, of the Oklahoma Highway Users Federation.

A policy statement issued by the group said Oklahoma's development has been hampered by its inadequate transportation system. It cited a 2002 study showing the state allocates only 36.3 percent of motor vehicle revenues to transportation, compard with 91.7 percent allocated by surrounding states.

``There is a continuing crisis over population losses, lack of development and missed opportunities,'' the group said. ``Yet, the Legislature, the governor and courts persist in spending to increase the number of network road lane miles without following a statewide plan or providing adequately for the existing network.

West said it did not make sense to continue building new roads when the state could not maintain the roads it already has.

He said cities and counties are particularly starved for road maintenance revenue under the Oklahoma system.

``We need a new vision,'' he said. ``We support the idea of an increase in fuel taxes to do this, if we need to.''

The group criticized the system of financing turnpikes by paying for new toll roads through collections on the busy Turner Turnpike between Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

It also warned that future highway funding is being jeopardized by bond programs that count on the state getting additional federal road funds in the future.

For the past several years, it said much of the matching funds for federal money returned to the state were ``phantom'' dollars from turnpike construction.
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