OTA Delaying Toll Increase Vote Could Slow Important Tulsa Project

Tuesday, August 23rd 2016, 5:52 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority plans to increase tolls soon, but that didn't happen Tuesday. A lawsuit delayed a vote on the increase, which could slow down an important Tulsa project.

The Gilcrease Expressway - Gilcrease turnpike extension - is tied to the rate increase because the OTA needs to build up some cash to pay for it.

The Gilcrease Expressway is north Tulsa's east/west connection, and it could be a new route over the Arkansas River, connecting to I-44 on the west side.

The Turnpike Authority plans to build at least part of the Gilcrease, but the timing and how much of it would be freeway and how much of it turnpike is up in the air.

Tulsa City Councilor Jack Henderson said, "I think that's a dream, and more economic development will happen in north Tulsa once this is done and it will be good for west Tulsa as well as north Tulsa."

The Turnpike Authority was intending to raise tolls, in part to pay for new construction, but at the last minute decided to wait.

8/23/2016 Related Story: Decision On Hike In Oklahoma Turnpike Tolls Put On Hold

A lawsuit over how the OTA pays for new projects delayed the rate increase.

Turnpike Authority Spokesman Jack Damrill said the OTA has a ballpark figure of $230 million for building the turnpike section of the Gilcrease. He said a toll increase isn't needed to keep the project moving, but, ultimately, would be required to pay for construction.

Regardless, Henderson welcomes the OTA finishing what Tulsa started 50 years ago.

"And, if it continued at the same snail's pace that it is, it would be another 50 years,” he said. “We can't afford that. This city deserves better, north Tulsa deserves better and I am elated that someone is trying to move forward and complete the Gilcrease."

The turnpike is still in the research phase, not yet to design, so it is years off; but, with the OTA involved, it’s closer than it's ever been.