Oklahoma Roads Improving As ODOT Could See $6 Million Cut
TULSA, Oklahoma - A national group that's often been critical of our state's transportation system is now crediting Oklahoma for reversing a decades-long trend of deteriorating roads and bridges.
The bridge along the I-44 corridor between 145th and 193rd East Avenues is just one example. Three bridges along the stretch of highway were all rated structurally deficient, but they've been replaced and the interstate widened.
In fact, a new report said the state has cut in half the number of structurally deficient bridges. While Oklahoma has come a long way in the past decade, the new report points out there is still a lot of work ahead of us, with plenty of potential road blocks.
Those potential roadblocks would come if the federal government cuts some $600 million in money for Oklahoma roads.
The director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation said the report provided insight but his top priority is repairing all of Oklahoma's structurally deficient bridges.
Potholes, buckling bridges and inadequate interstates pose huge risks for Oklahoma's drivers, but what a difference a decade makes. Increased transportation funding from the 2005 legislative session has paid off.
"Improvements that the state is making will go a long when it comes to making it safer and making sure that if a driver does make a mistake that the driver won't pay for that mistake with their life," said Carolyn Kelly with TRIP.
TRIP, an independent transportation research group, said Oklahoma's overhaul has greatly improved driver's safety. Still, the state's deadly accident rate is some 30 percent higher than the national average.
"This comes even after the overhaul. Fatality rate has been reduced by some six percent in recent years, so it's coming down, slowly, but it's still significantly higher than national average and higher than what we want it to be," Kelly said.
Statewide construction projects have included adding median barriers, rumble strips and rehabbing 300 miles of Oklahoma's interstates.
Yet, ODOT's federal funding may be slashed by $625 million by October. Even if the transit budget is tightened, officials said the needs are clear.
"Our first priority will remain our structurally deficient bridges. We are going to stay on course with getting our bridges to a manageable state, where the bridges are not managing us, but we are managing the bridges," said Mike Paterson with ODOT.
ODOT said within the next seven years nearly all state maintained bridges will be structurally safe.