ODOT Quick To Spend Stimulus Dollars

Tuesday, June 23rd 2009, 5:01 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

UNDATED -- The Oklahoma Department of Transportation accepted $360 million four months ago. Now, more than 80 percent of those funds have been awarded in construction contracts. Even stimulus watchdog Senator Tom Coburn says he's impressed at ODOT's speed in getting these projects off the ground.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation boss Gary Ridley says he saw opportunity - and seized it.

"We took the president-elect, at the time, very serious on a stimulus plan, that it would be a 'use it or lose it' provision, and the jobs had to be shovel ready," said Gary Ridley, Director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. "So we had about $1.2 billion ready to go when he took the oath of office in February."

Much of the $360 million stimulus dollars ODOT received are "obligated" - technical jargon for spent - contracted out to construction crews. The I-244 reconstruction around Tulsa's Inner Dispersal Loop is the most expensive project in the history of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. But 90 percent of the $75 million dollar price tag is picked up by the stimulus.

Senator Tom Coburn says ODOT is putting people to work on repairs that are long overdue.

"I think you're going to see a lot of activity from it; it's going to be very positive," said Senator Tom Coburn.  "So we're going to see some good improvements."

Kansas has spent 52 percent of their 350 million transportation dollars. Arkansas has obligated 74 percent of its money on 45 projects. In Oklahoma, 82 percent is committed, on 74 jobs.

"If we start construction projects early in the year, we'll have a better chance of getting a lot of work done this summer," said Gary Ridley. And Ridley says he's making sure the money is doing its job.

"We're going to have a lot of stimulus projects completed by the end of this construction season," said Ridley.

Last week Senator Tom Coburn pointed out that Illinois is spending $150,000 stimulus dollars to make road signs saying, this project is a stimulus project. Ridley says there aren't any similar plans for ODOT projects on our highways.