Group Pushing Lawmakers To Fix Roads And Bridges

Wednesday, January 30th 2008, 6:06 pm
By: News On 6

A group wants state lawmakers to use some of the money we already have in the state budget to fix our roads and bridges.  The News On 6's Steve Berg reports the group is called Trust and they say a lot of the money that should go to roads is going somewhere else.  They say a lot of the roads we drive on are dangerous and something has to be done about it.

The Trust Coalition says the I-244 bridge across the Arkansas River in Tulsa is a prime example of the roads problem in Oklahoma.

According to federal structural ratings, it's worse than the interstate bridge that collapsed last summer in Minnesota, says Trust chairman and local banker Kell Kelly.

"We have to fix these things.  It's just a matter of time until we have a similar tragedy," said Kelly.

But it will take time and money to fix.  Right now only about 16% of Motor Vehicle Collections, those are things like license tags and title fees, go to roads and bridges.

Trust wants the legislature to boost that amount by 5% a year for 6 years.

"One example, a portion of the fuel tax fee over several years was diverted to an OU weather school to build that.  Those are the kinds of things we can't have happening anymore if we want to have better roads and better streets," said Crystal Drwenski. 

That extra 30% would translate to about $200 million a year.  But even that barely scratches the surface on an estimated $9 billion in backlogged road repairs.

"That's not going to be a complete solution.  But we have to start someplace.  It is a better solution than doing nothing," said Kelly.

Of course, if the money goes to roads, it will have to be taken away from something else, because Oklahomans voted against an additional fuel tax 3 years ago by an 80% margin.

"I think voters have already overwhelming spoken and said we don't want to pay more taxes.  We want you to use the taxes and fees that we're already paying," said Drwenski.

The group also wants to take the existing road repair budget and adjust it for inflation so it has the same spending power every year.