Transportation Board approves construction bond package

Wednesday, October 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Lawmakers and officials from Tulsa complained their city did not get a fair amount of funding in a $799 million construction bond package approved by the Oklahoma Transportation Commission on Tuesday.

"The process has been inherently unfair and the allocations unfair," Rep. Russ Roach, D- Tulsa, said of the package which funds 10 highway projects, most in rural areas.

The package, which was passed on a 5-2 commission vote, will widen many state highways to four lanes.

Bill Johnson of Muskogee and Jerry Ryan of Tulsa voted against the plan, saying they were concerned about the cost and were worried that other critical highway projects never will be completed.

"We're making a decision to mortgage our future," Ryan said.

But Transportation Secretary Neal McCaleb said urban areas have received the greater percentage of highway funding in the past few years and that the approved set of projects, when finished, will mean all Oklahoma cities with populations of more than 10,000 will have four-lane access to the interstate system.

Rural lawmakers and mayors in attendance Tuesday praised the commission's decision.

The $799 price tag of the package comes through a federal program that allows states to sell highway bonds and retire them with a portion of their future federal highway funds.

The legislation that brought about the program was included in a bill passed by the last Legislature.

The highway financing plan will be submitted for approval to the Legislative and Executive Bond Oversight Commissions, which meet Thursday.

The highway projects were picked by the three-member Contingency Review Board, consisting of Gov. Frank Keating, House Speaker Loyd Benson and Senate leader Stratton Taylor.

Among the largest projects included in the transportation package: -- $137 million to make U.S. 70 a four-laned roadway from its intersection with Interstate 35, east to the Marshall County line, then east to the Madill bypass, then east to the Durant bypass, then east to the Bryan County-Choctaw County line.

-- $110 million for four-laning U.S. 183 from its intersection with U.S. 70, north to Cordell.

-- $98.6 million to widen to four lanes U.S. 59 from the Sunset Corner junction of the highway with U.S. 271, north to I-40 at Sallisaw.

-- $102.4 million to widen to four lanes State Highway 3 from its intersection with State Highway 34 south of Woodward to its junction with State Highway 33, west of Watonga.