National group flunks Tulsa's roads

Wednesday, August 3rd 2005, 10:39 am
By: News On 6

A national group says Tulsa isn't making the grade when it comes to maintaining roads and bridges and Tulsa’s Chamber of Commerce says a gasoline tax is the remedy.

News on 6 anchor Tami Marler takes a look at who's fueling State Question 723.

The Road Information Project, based in Washington, DC, considers 19 percent of Tulsa's urban arterial roads congested during rush-hour for a grade of C-plus, safety gets a C-minus. Frank Moretti came from Washington DC to talk about Tulsa's transportation challenges. "I think the bottom line is that this is the kind of report card you wouldn't want your kids bringing home to you. There are real consequences as there would be with a child with this kind of a report card."

Most parents would probably have some advanced warning if their child were headed toward a D-minus, which Tulsa earned when it came to roads. According to TRIP's 2003 figures. 36 percent of roads in the metro area are in poor condition, compared with 13 percent nationally.

Moretti says TRIP uses data from the Federal Highway Administration, National Bridge Inventory and Oklahoma Department of Transportation to grade bridge repair as well. According to TRIP, 42 percent of Tulsa's bridges are in substandard condition. "What that means is approximately a third of the bridges here in the Tulsa area are worn out. They're still safe to carry traffic, if they weren't safe they'd be closed, but what that means is that they've reached a level of deterioration that where significant improvements, in some cases replacement is necessary to get those bridges back into good condition."

State Question 723 proposes a five-cent gasoline tax that would place money in a lockbox for the Department of Transportation, to improve roads and bridges. The News on 6 Gary Evans with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation why taxpayers would put more money in the hands of ODOT, which oversaw Tulsa's decline to its current state of disrepair. "I think after we had the I-40 bridge get hit it came to light. We had to have repair crews out there 24 hours a day while those detours were in effect. And so that kind of shook us in the Department of Transportation and made us realize that we really need to get this information out to the public and know to tell them what this situation is with their highways and bridges that they own."

TRIP is funded by construction contractors and associations throughout the country, including some Oklahoma companies that are awarded contracts to build roads and bridges.

Opponents of State Question 723 say taxpayers already pay for road and bridge repair, but the legislature allocates it to unrelated causes.