Obama Proposal Could Put Oklahomans to Work

Wednesday, November 26th 2008, 8:10 am
By: News On 6

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK -- Oklahoma's name has repeatedly topped the list for bad roads and bridges.

State lawmakers recently approved billions of dollars in funding to fix the worst of the lot. State officials are moving forward with plans to fast-track those repairs using federal money.

It could be a bit presumptuous to make those plans considering the stimulus bill, which would fund the road and bridge repair projects, hasn't even been written. In fact, it was only mentioned by aides to President-elect Barack Obama just last week, but ODOT director Gary Ridley said the state must be prepared.

"We are looking into possibilities if a stimulus package is passed by Congress and signed by the president that Oklahoma would be ready to put those funds to work with 60 to 90 days," ODOT Director Gary Ridley said.

Oklahoma already has a $12 billion, eight-year program underway to fix about 460 of the most antiquated, dilapidated roads and bridges. Ridley would rather use federal money if it becomes available.

"What we would look at with any type of stimulus is to take the project that are already in our eight-year program and move them forward," Rep. Mike Thompson (R-Oklahoma City).

ODOT could then use state dollars to fix other roads not even included in the current plan. Thompson, who sits on the state transportation subcommittee, said Oklahoma contributes more money into the federal transportation trust fund than most states, so it's only fitting we get some of it back.

"Oklahoma's paying their fair share," Thompson said. "They're just not receiving their fair share so any new dollars coming into to fix the infrastructure are certainly welcome and invited."

And time, Ridley said, is off the essence.

"We just need to take advantage of it when the time comes so that we can not only invest in Oklahoma, but we can put the people who live here in Oklahoma back to work," Ridley said.

Job creation depends on how much federal money from the stimulus package Oklahoma receives. Early estimate said that for every 1 billion dollar investment, that's about 30,000 jobs, but the bill has yet to be written.