Transportation secretary says more funding needed for road maintenance

Tuesday, October 24th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- In order to properly maintain the state's roads, Oklahoma should either spend more money toward maintaining them or drop some less important roads from state care, state Secretary of Transportation Neal McCaleb told state lawmakers Monday.

McCaleb said funding for state road construction has increased from less than $200 million a year in 1991 to nearly $600 million this year.

During the same time period, road maintenance funding has stayed at roughly $100 million a year.

A large part of the increased road-building is because of a $1 billion, two-part road construction program, McCaleb told the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety and Transportation.

"We are clearly adding a lot of new miles (to the system), but the bill for this is going to come through in the near future," he said.

The Department of Transportation presently maintains more than 12,825 miles of roads, which McCaleb estimated is worth $30 billion. He said the state should spend $1 billion a year in that asset.

He said dropping some less-necessary roads from the state system is a valid solution.

He said he agreed with the argument that the state maintains too many roads.

"If I were king I would take off at least 4,000 miles,"

McCaleb said, adding that such an action is unlikely because legislators passed a law that requires the approval of local county commissioners before the Department of Transportation can remove any road from the state system.

Meanwhile, Rep. Larry Ferguson, R-Cleveland, questioned whether rural northwestern Oklahoma districts are getting more than their fair share of road funding, especially when population and traffic count are considered.

McCaleb argued that if road allocations are based only on traffic counts, only Tulsa and Oklahoma City would receive road funding.