ODOT Defends Stimulus Project on Highway 3
By Alex Cameron, Oklahoma Impact Team
PIEDMONT, Oklahoma -- A common complaint about the stimulus package is that not enough of the money is going to infrastructure projects like road and bridge construction. That being the case, why are people complaining about a road project that is being funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act?
Specifically, residents of northwest Oklahoma County and southeast Canadian County are upset with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation's decision to resurface Highway 3, from Piedmont Road all the way to Okarche.
On a visit to the job site recently, it had the appearance of most any other resurfacing job you'd see – asphalt trucks and heavy machinery moving methodically along a trail of orange cones leaving behind a glistening, black, smooth surface, or at least, that's how it looked.
Sister Marie Ballmann, a local resident, said it feels like something else.
"It feels to me like a waste," Ballmann said.
Ballmann said she frequently drives from her home off of Richland Road into Oklahoma City, and thus, has experienced the highway’s new surface. She said it’s now loud and bumpy.
"Any movement you feel on this road from bumps wasn't there [before]," Ballmann said.
She said the truth is the ride was much smoother before the resurfacing project.
"Absolutely, it's just a pure mystery why they chose this road," Ballmann said.
ODOT spokeswoman Terri Angier said comments like Ballmann’s were not unexpected.
"We certainly recognize that the public is not very familiar with this process," Angier said.
The process Angier is referring to is "microsurfacing." The contractor is adding just under half an inch of asphalt to 15 miles of the 4-lane highway at a cost of $2.6 million in stimulus funds.
The reason the public isn't very familiar with it, Angier said, is because the process falls under the heading of 'preventative maintenance.'
"Unfortunately in Oklahoma, because of our funding over the years, we did not have the luxury of doing preventative maintenance. In the past five or six years, we've really stepped that process up," Angier said.
After explaining to Sister Ballmann that this work is preventative maintenance, she can only barely stifle a laugh.
"Well, I'd like to see their definition," Ballmann said.
State transportation officials said they understand this road was in better condition than most that they work on, but this will keep it that way for years longer. What’s more, they said this will save taxpayers money by putting off the need for any major reconstruction.
And, as for all the new bumps, Angier said, "All we ask the public for is a little patience, the project is not finished."
To that, Sister Ballmann said, praise the Lord.
"If there's more coming, to smooth this out, I'd be glad to wait," Ballmann said.
She shouldn’t have to wait too long. The project is expected to wrap up in the next two weeks.