OTA to unveil preliminary study to convert U.S. 69 into a toll road

Thursday, May 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

(TULSA) - The Oklahoma Transportation Authority will unveil a preliminary study on Thursday that would convert U.S. 69 into a toll road from Interstate 40 south to the state line.

Turning the road into a turnpike would help the highway meet interstate standards, but additional study of the issue would be needed before such a plan was implemented, authority officials said Wednesday.

``There is interest in turning it into a toll facility because of safety issues and a concern about the high volume of trucks going through these small towns right now,'' Brenda Perry, an OTA spokeswoman told the Tulsa World's capitol bureau.

Motorists driving from the Tulsa area to Dallas could be paying tolls from Henryetta to Texas. Right now, drivers take the Indian Nation Turnpike from Henryetta to the U.S. 75-U.S. 69 exit at McAlester.

``From my standpoint, we have pretty much reached the maximum of what we are going to be doing, absent some type of funding vehicle different than what we have today,'' OTA member Albert Kelly Jr. said.

The OTA already is dealing with a massive turnpike extension package that includes the Creek Turnpike around Tulsa.

Sen. Billy Mickle, D-Durant, said the results of the study have been kept confidential.

``I assume they would hold public meetings to see what kind of support there may or may not be,'' Mickle said.

According to James W. Caudle, an OTA member from Durant, the proposal has support.

``All the people down here are in support of it. We think it would be a great financial boost to our area. The better the transportation, the better the economic development,'' Caudle said.

The OTA will release the study at its meeting in Durant, as well as the findings of a study that compares how highways are financed in Kentucky and Oklahoma.

State Rep. John A. Wright, R-Broken Arrow, requested the study, the OTA said.

His legislation to abolish the state's toll roads died earlier in the current legislative session. Wright asked for a study on how Kentucky has managed to remove tolls on nearly two-thirds of its turnpikes.

Among other things, the OTA will decide whether to name Holly Lowe as acting director should Neal McCaleb, the present director, be appointed to run the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

McCaleb is also the Oklahoma Department of Transportation director and transportation secretary.