Oklahoma Cities Raise Concern Over Toll Hike

Thursday, July 16th 2009, 5:32 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

PRYOR, OK -- Starting August 4th, the cost of driving on Oklahoma toll roads will increase by an average of 16%.  A turnpike toll hike could mean fewer drivers on toll roads, and more on highways that are free of charge.  That has some towns concerned.

07/15/2009 Related Story: Are Oklahoma Toll Roads Here To Stay?

Commercial truck traffic is already an issue on Highway 69.  And, people worry that if truckers are looking to avoid paying more, it could take even more of a toll.

Living in Pryor means dealing with big rigs.

"Look at them coming right there. Five, six, there's four, five, six. They'll run in a convoy," said Pryor's John Cagle.

The town sits in the middle of a major trucking corridor.  But, more truckers could be turning to roads like Highway 69 once new toll rates go into effect in August.

After the last rate hike, in 2001, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority says total toll road traffic dropped by 4%.  The authority also says the average unhappy driver will stay off of turnpikes for one year after toll increases.  But, the average trucker may steer clear of them for five years.

Of course, truck travel is already an issue on Highway 69. The trucks are on the move in both directions.

"They're a big concern because we've had accidents here where they can't stop.  They're going too fast and if we get more trucks, that may be more of a problem," said Marian Hanson of Salina.

"Last year was the proof. We had an accident right here at the intersection," said Kyle Rinney of Pryor.

He's referring to a 2008 crash.  A truck driver failed to brake and slammed into a car, killing a family of four.

It's a danger people in Pryor are used to living with, but when the toll hike takes effect, they are encouraging truckers to choose efficiency over money.

"Most of the trucking people are interested in trying to save time, so I would assume they would continue to use the turnpike," said Richard Matine of Pryor.  

See a full list of the new turnpike rates throughout Oklahoma.