McCaleb cites confusion in dome fund fuss

Thursday, August 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Those criticizing a financing plan for the state Capitol dome are confused about the purpose of federal
highway "enhancement" funds, state Transportation Secretary Neal McCaleb says.

"If people understand nothing else, I want them to understand that there is no way we can use federal enhancement funds to fill
potholes or construct new roads," McCaleb said Thursday.

The administration of Gov. Frank Keating wants to use $3 million in federal road funds to help with the financing of a Capitol dome
project that will cost more than $20 million.

The idea of using the road funds to help build the dome has drawn questions and criticism from citizens and some legislators.

But the arguing could be moot since the Federal Highway Administration this week made a preliminary decision that the dome
project doesn't qualify for the federal money.

McCaleb said Oklahoma officials are not giving up on securing the funding, however.

"We are having a constructive dialogue with the feds on this issue," he said.

"Since enhancement funding began in 1992, a wide variety of cultural enrichment projects around the nation have been funded,
including train depot restorations, museums, trails and nature preservation improvements," McCaleb said. "Available money has grown from about $4 million annually to $12 million or more for Oklahoma.

"The Stine Home restoration in Woodward, at over a million dollars, the Chief Standing Bear memorial in Ponca City, another million, and the Stilwell depot restoration, at $277,000, are
examples of the Oklahoma projects that have received enhancement money."

In the past, before eligibility rules were tightened, such federal funding was used for improvements of Capitols in Texas and West Virginia, McCaleb said.

The Oklahoma official, in making a case for utilizing enhancement funds, said the Oklahoma Capitol is at a crossroads and
could be viewed by motorists traveling on four interstate highways.

He said the state highway agency also used to be housed in the Capitol.