Legislation would make for toll-free turnpike stretch

Thursday, June 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Motorists getting on the Will Rogers Turnpike at Catoosa or Claremore would get a free ride under a bill awaiting Gov. Frank Keating's signature.

The plan to make a 13-mile stretch of the turnpike toll-free would solve a problem for Claremore officials and save the state money, Transportation Secretary Neal McCaleb said.

Claremore officials want State Highway 20 relocated from downtown.

A four-lane Highway 20 bypass proposed by the Transportation Department would link to a proposed new interchange with the turnpike south of Claremore and cost $44 million, McCaleb said.

The state could save money by leasing the turnpike between Claremore and Catoosa instead, said McCaleb, who presented the plan to Senate leader Stratton Taylor, a Democrat from Claremore.

Under the plan, only people getting on the turnpike at Catoosa or Claremore would save the 50-cent toll charged to travel between the cities. Someone getting on at Catoosa and going beyond Claremore or someone traveling the length of the turnpike would pay full fare, McCaleb said.

Leasing the turnpike would cost about $900,000 per year for several years. The cost probably would rise to $3.8 million by the end of a 50-year lease, he said.

The measure was included in legislation outlining road projects for Phase 2 of the state's major road construction program adopted in 1997.

This would be the first time the transportation department leased a portion of a turnpike to make it free, McCaleb said.