State Transportation Department can't keep up with potholes

Friday, April 26th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Oklahoma's roads and bridges are falling apart as maintenance is delayed by a lack of state funding, state Department of Transportation officials say.

Gary Evans, acting division engineer for the department, said money problems are so bad that the state often doesn't paint metal bridges, so they rust.

``Painting them is a relatively inexpensive way to protect the investment we made when we built the bridges,'' he said. ``But we can't even afford to do that.''

A pothole grew so large Thursday morning that it ate all the way through a bridge on U.S. 169, allowing Tulsa drivers to look through the roadway and see Interstate 44 below.

The U.S. 169 bridge will be rebuilt this summer as part of a larger project to widen that stretch of highway to six lanes. The new construction will alleviate the maintenance problem in that particular location, but dozens of other highway bridges are in equally bad shape in the Tulsa area, Evans said.

``As long as state funding levels remain where they are,'' Evans said, ``our highways will continue to deteriorate.''

Department of Transportation spokeswoman Terri Angier said the department receives $110 million every year for maintenance, about a quarter of what it needs.

She said that while the state takes in $1 billion a year in transportation revenues, most of that money is diverted to state needs other than transportation projects and repairs.

A bill pending in the state Legislature would require that 15 percent of all motor vehicle taxes go to the Department of Transportation. This would give the state an additional $57 million a year for maintenance.