January Commission Wrap-Up: State budget cuts present challenges to ODOTs construction program
State budget cuts present challenges to ODOT’s construction program; highway maintenance remains priority
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 6, 2016
Highlights of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission’s Monday, Jan. 4 meeting include an update on cuts in state transportation funding due to the recently-declared revenue failure, a report on the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s response to the winter storms and flooding affecting highways in Oklahoma, recognition of a partnership with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and approval of funding for rail improvements in Perry.
Executive Director Mike Patterson reported to commissioners on the effects of cuts in state funding due to the revenue failure.In accordance with state law, ODOT and other agencies are receiving a 3 percent cut for State Fiscal Year 2016. This reduces the state’s allocation to the Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver Safety fund, cutting $13.2 million from ODOT’s budget for future construction projects in the Eight-year Construction Work Plan. The cut to the ROADS fund will not impact ongoing construction projects. The agency is also implementing a plan to reduce out-of-state travel, delay replacement of vehicles, equipment and outdated facilities and leave vacant positions unfilled. The $3.9 million in savings will be reallocated to highway maintenance.
“Due to these state budget challenges, we are looking at reductions that will likely have a negative impact on highway construction spending. This means some projects in the Eight-year Plan will be postponed, though we don’t know which ones at this point,” Patterson said. “At the same time, we will have to increase spending on maintenance and asset preservation just to keep the highways in the condition they are now.”
Maintenance will continue to be a challenge, as recent winter storms and heavy rainfall have taken a toll on the state’s highways. Patterson said ODOT spent $1.6 million responding to storms in December alone. As winter continues, the cycle of repeated freezing and thawing will cause additional stress to highway pavements, resulting in more surface damage and potholes. Several highways also remain closed due to high water in parts of southern and eastern Oklahoma. Once floodwaters recede, ODOT crews will assess the damage and determine the extent of repairs needed.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol recognized ODOT for its vital role as a partner in the state’s effort to improve motorcycle safety. Since 2011, ODOT has helped fund the Motorcycle Safety Education Program, which includes motorcycle safety classes and “Share the Road” awareness events conducted statewide by OHP Troop MC. The program was created to help reduce the the number of injuries and fatalities from motorcycle accidents in Oklahoma.
Patterson also announced the promotion of long-time ODOT engineer Dawn Sullivan to the position of Director of Capital Programs. Sullivan joined the agency in 1988 and was most recently the Environmental Programs Division Engineer. She joins the agency’s senior staff and succeeds John Bowman, who is retiring.
Commissioners approved funding for five railroad crossing projects, including improvements to a rail corridor in Perry. The agency does not typically advertise new highway construction projects for bid in December, thus no new contracts were awarded by the commission this month.
The eight-member panel, appointed by the governor to oversee the state’s transportation development, awards project contracts for road and bridge construction every month. The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 8 at 11 a.m.
Contracts, bid information, the commission’s monthly agenda and project details can be viewed at www.odot.org.
At the Monday, Jan. 4 meeting of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission, members of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troop MC recognized the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for its participation in the state’s effort to educate the public about motorcycle safety. Pictured here are, from left, Trooper David Cravens, Trooper Clint Riddle, Transportation Commission Chairman David Burrage, Lt. Col. James Wilson, Maj. Mike Mize, ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson, Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley, Capt. Jerry Reagan and Lt. Chris Bridges.
Heavy rainfall in late December caused the closure of several highways in parts of southern and eastern Oklahoma, including SH-10 near the Illinois River in Cherokee County, pictured here. As floodwater recede, Oklahoma Department of Transportation crews will assess damage and make repairs. At their Monday, Jan. 4 meeting, members of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission heard that the ODOT is keeping highway maintenance a top priority, despite state budget cuts.
(Editors and News Directors:For more information, call the ODOT Media and Public Relations Division at 405-521-6000.)