Oklahoma secures nearly $510 million in highway funding

Wednesday, September 10th 2003, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved nearly $13.3 million for the stretch of Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City called the Crosstown Expressway, but a congressman believes the state should put in more money.

The $89.3 billion bill, approved on a 381-39 vote Tuesday, contains nearly $510 million for transportation projects for Oklahoma, including money for I-40.

Reps. Brad Carson, Tom Cole, Frank Lucas and John Sullivan voted for the measure crafted by the subcommittee on transportation and other federal programs chaired by Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla.

The transportation spending bill includes a $38.5 million increase in federal funds that can be used at the state's discretion.

Istook said the funding level for the next fiscal year ensures state motorists won't be a ``donor state'' or spend more on federal fuel taxes than it receives back for transportation projects.

But the $13.26 million earmarked for next year leaves the I-40 project short of the estimated $350 million price tag. The state has received more than $114 million so far.

Istook said Tuesday the Crosstown``will be the most expensive in state history. I hope that state officials will use part of this extra $38 million to demonstrate local commitment to the Crosstown Expressway.

``If we all work together, we can get the necessary dollars to complete this crucial project.''

State highway officials have been reluctant to use state money on the project or federal money not specifically earmarked for the Crosstown.

Istook last month told state officials the congressional delegation might not be able to get the entire amount, and they should try to donate more to the project.

But state Transportation Director Gary Ridley said Oklahoma has other transportation needs that outstrip the state's ability to pay for the Crosstown with its regular allocation of federal funds.

Lucas said the measure also includes $5.5 million for a program to use buses to connect Oklahoma State University campuses in Tulsa, Stillwater, Oklahoma City and Okmulgee.

``This funding is another step in making Oklahoma State's vision of a multimodel transportation system a reality,'' Lucas said.

The measure also would earmark $5 million for widening Interstate 44 in Tulsa; $2.5 million to replace the air traffic control tower at Tulsa International Airport; $250,000 to repair NE 23rd Street between Lincoln Boulevard and Interstate 35 in Oklahoma City and $2 million for a project on U.S. 60 in Osage County.

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