The state department of transportation warns that many of its biggest and most critical road projects are in jeopardy because the legislature isn't increasing spending on roads. The News On 6's Emory Bryan reports, an idea out of the legislature to increase spending on roads ended up with no new money for ODOT.
It's because of a legislative trigger. That said, if state revenue is up 3%, roads get more money. The problem is the way it's figured. ODOT believes it will never kick in.
There is, according to the state, no road project more critical in Tulsa than the long planned widening of Interstate-44. But, it's still not fully funded. ODOT worries it might not be anytime soon. The 3% trigger law, designed to increase road spending in good times, has resulted in no new spending even when there is money available.
"In Tulsa, we have a very important bridge that needs to be replaced and it needs to be put in our 8 year plan, but it's got very little chance with this 3% growth trigger," said Transportation Commissioner, Guy Berry.
He's talking about the bridge on Interstate-244 over the Arkansas. It's used by 70,000 drivers every day and is long overdue for a $50 million replacement.
According to ODOT, the money shortage has jeopardized the widening of Interstate-44 from Yale to Riverside and some improvements to the Inner Dispersal Loop. ODOT says it's certain to eliminate Interstate-244 Bridge, the widening of Highway 169 through Owasso, and the widening of Intersate-44 through Catoosa.
That widening job was planned for one of the state's busiest sections of road. Ironically, it turned out last year the state had the money, but didn't spend it on roads.
"Towards the end of the session, we knew we had the money and we just chose to fund other things instead of putting that money over to the department of transportation," said State Senator Kenneth Corn, (D) LeFore & Sequoyah County.
ODOT believes it's a situation that will happen again unless the trigger law is tied to actual income, not just what's predicted to come in.
"If that changes during the year, and we all realize it will change, we're already out of the mix," said Gary Ridley, Director of Transportation.
ODOT's plea comes as there is lobbying underway at the capitol to dedicate all of the transportation taxes to road work because now some of it goes into the general fund. As always, every dollar spent on roads is a dollar unavailable for education or prisons or all the other priorities.
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