Changes Made To Controversial Toll Bridge Plans

Friday, March 16th 2007, 5:00 pm
By: News On 6

There's talk again about a toll bridge connecting South Tulsa and Jenks across the Arkansas River. But instead of a private toll bridge, a city councilor wants to make it a public toll bridge. Councilor Bill Christiansen helped lead the fight against the private toll bridge. The News on 6’s Steve Berg reports now he and the south Tulsa residents who opposed it, are floating the idea of the public toll bridge.

The plan is basically identical to the one that was put forth by the private company, Infrastructure Ventures Incorporated. But instead of going into private pockets, the revenues, which could total $800 million over 75 years, would go the cities.

"It will improve infrastructure, and as a result, improve quality of life issue for all, and it's for all of Tulsa,” said Tulsa City Councilor Bill Christiansen. “It's not just for south Tulsa. It really would be for all of Tulsa, all infrastructure needs in Tulsa."

This proposal puts the north end of the bridge farther west than earlier proposals, on Riverside Drive, which is important to the South Tulsa citizens. The bridge itself would cost about $35 million; the $800 million in tolls would be split between Tulsa and Jenks according to population, so Tulsa would get the bulk of that.

The question is how many people would be willing to pay the toll, which they say would start at around a dollar per crossing.

"I don't think it's a bad way to go, because it's not a tax increase it's just a user fee,” Christiansen said. “And I think it's reasonable. And I think it would spur a positive thing. It would spur economic development on both sides of the river, which ultimately increases all of our tax bases with additional revenues."

On the other side of the river though is Jenks, which is still being sued by the South Tulsa Citizens Coalition for its contract with the private bridge-builder.

"I'd like to be positive about it and say once the lawsuit is ruled on, I hope that we can all come together and work on some common ground and do what's right for both communities, but I really don't know," Michael Covey with the South Tulsa Citizens Coalition said.

That lawsuit could be ruled on sometime in the next couple of week. We talked to Jenks mayor Vic Vreeland and asked him about this new proposal. He says he doesn't know enough about it yet to make a decision, but he says he would "not" support financing the bridge with revenue bonds, which is the current plan.

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