State legislators say cost of driving and maintaining Oklahoma Turnpikes too high

Thursday, September 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A tussle is brewing between voters and Oklahoma law about the cost of traveling and maintaining turnpikes. If you took a road trip out of the Tulsa area, chances are you paid at least some money in tolls. This fact has some state legislators are saying it's too much money.

Some Oklahomans are calling it "toll road overload." Ten turnpikes in the state now total more than 550 miles. "It's a lot of money, but I think it's a little too high,” said Richard Kays, Oklahoma toll road driver. “For what you got to travel." Drivers like Kays complain that what you have to travel and pay for -- are roads too often under construction. He paid more than $8.00 to leave Tulsa.

It's not just Oklahomans doing the complaining. "The back roads in Texas were better than the Indian Nation Turnpike,” said Jerry Bowers, an out of state driver. “I'm talking the back roads, because I'm not a turnpike driver. I take the back roads when I go."

In a recent survey conducted by some state legislators, many respondents complained about Oklahoma turnpikes. So some state officials are saying enough is enough. "I think it's time to reconnect with the voters and re-establish some confidence on their part,” said state representative Russ Roach. “And I say, right now, the public really does not have confidence in the direction that we've been going on toll roads."

In the Tulsa area alone, there are six turnpikes, the Turner, Will Rogers, Cimarron, Cherokee, Creek and Muskogee. In fact, highway 75 is the only free road that leads to Tulsa. "This thing has gotten out of hand,” said Roach. “It's got to the point that the public is beginning to rebel. I think it's time for the politicians to listen to the public, and re-establish some confidence level that what we're doing is what the public wants us to do."

"There’s nothing you can do about it,” said Kays. “You either pay to ride or you walk. One or the other."
Roach and fellow legislator Phil Ostrander are proposing that every new turnpike be required to pay its own way. The Oklahoma Transportation Authority says the turnpike system has played a vital role in Oklahoma's growth and economic development.