Oklahoma Senator Pushing For More Transportation Funding

Friday, June 26th 2015, 7:26 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Oklahoma's Department of Transportation wants to tackle more big road projects, and soon could have the money to do it.

It depends on federal funding for roads and a plan written by Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe.

Big jobs on major highways - like the Broken Arrow Expressway - usually involve federal money, but gridlock in Congress has made it difficult to do big projects, but Inhofe is confident that's about to change.

The narrow lanes on the usually congested Highway 169 are overdue for widening, and many of the bridges have problems too.

ODOT plans to start a $45 million upgrade that will rebuild and widen just over a mile of Highway 169, replacing eight bridges - including the ones over Bird Creek.

Inhofe used the project as the backdrop while he pushed for more transportation funding.

"We're doing something good here. We have a six-year bill we've introduced," he said.

Inhofe chairs the committee that just came up with a six-year plan for transportation - the first long-term plan developed in Congress since 2005.

It would replace year to year uncertainty with long-term planning that Inhofe said will do more with the same money the government is already spending.

Inhofe said the Senate and House will take up the bill in July.

“The fight I have, we're going to win the fight, but there will be demagogues who say we don't have the money - we have the money, it's just making it a priority,” he said.

Inhofe said the plan would bring $657 million to Oklahoma the first year for road projects.

The amount would increase each year with more of a priority on bridge replacements and interstates - the two areas with the biggest backlog of maintenance.

In Oklahoma, it would put more money into bigger, multi-year projects like Highway 169.

“The capacity issues we've had on 169 for years have been a real challenge for citizens who use this for a commuter route and an interstate route into Kansas,” said ODOT Director, Mike Patterson.

The Bird Creek project starts a week from Monday and will take about a year and a half.