June Commission Wrap-up: State budget cuts will impact ODOT's Eight-year Plan,
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 8, 2016
Highlights of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission’s Monday, June 6, meeting include a report on the agency’s recent work zone safety awareness efforts; discussion of legislative issues and state budget cuts; and a vote acknowledging new turnpike routes planned by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. Commissioners also approved contracts for resurfacing on I-40 in Beckham County, Intelligent Transportation Systems installation at several border crossings and a preliminary engineering study for long-range planning of future reconstruction of the I-44 Belle Isle bridge in Oklahoma City.
Commissioners held a moment of silence for Delaware County Superintendent Jarrell Gray, who was killed while directing a brush clearing operation along SH-20 near Grove in May. He was the 60th ODOT employee to fall in the line of duty. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections and ODOT recently recognized an officer and five inmates on the work crew who rendered first aid to Gray in an attempt to save his life.
Executive Director Mike Patterson noted that millions of Oklahomans were reached through ODOT’s recent two-month work zone safety blitz to increase awareness among drivers that work zone collisions and deaths are preventable. Public outreach included Work Zone Wednesday messages on highway message boards, a Facebook cause page, public service announcements and display of the National Work Zone Memorial wall for the first time in the state, to name a few.
Patterson also reported the budget agreement reached by the state legislature and governor resulted in $367 million in cuts to state transportation, with an opportunity for ODOT to partially offset the reductions with $200 million in bonds. The cuts will affect the department’s ability to add new construction projects to the Eight-year Construction
“The state has invested a large amount in the transportation system during the last ten years, so we cannot cut maintenance and preservation of the highways and bridges that have been reconstructed,” Patterson said. “This means that these budget cuts will impact future projects in the Eight-year Plan, which we are beginning the process of rebalancing.”
Also discussed were legislative issues including speed limit legislation and the impact of major budget cuts to transportation in the coming fiscal year. House Bill 3167 removed the maximum speed limit from state statutes and does not cause speed limits to change statewide. Speed limits are set by ODOT based on engineering and safety measures and highways are currently signed for proper speed limits.
In other news, ODOT officials hailed opening of the new US-377/SH-99 bridge over the Washita River in Johnston County over Memorial Day weekend, several months earlier than anticipated. The old truss bridge was closed due to flooding and subsequent damage in May 2015. The bridge replacement was advanced from Federal Fiscal Year 2018 due to impact of the bridge closure and detour to traffic between Tishomingo and Madill.
Commissioners awarded an $11 million contract to resurface nearly 10 miles of I-40 between Erick and Sayre in Beckham County and a $3.7 million contract for installation of highway message boards and traffic cameras at seven Port of Entry locations at major Oklahoma border crossings in Beckham, Bryan, Choctaw, Cotton, Kay, Love, Sequoyah counties. They also approved a nearly $2 million preliminary engineering study of I-44 between May Ave. and I-235 in Oklahoma City. This study will help provide a long-range plan for future reconstruction of the existing Belle Isle bridge.
The commission also voted to approve new turnpike locations in the Oklahoma City metro area requested by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. In accordance with state law, the commission must review and consent to the OTA’s proposed routes to ensure that the new turnpikes fit within the overall highway system and don’t conflict with planned ODOT projects at those specific locations. Commissioners recognized that ODOT has neither the plans nor the financial resources to construct new highways in these areas in the foreseeable future. More information about the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s planned expansions can be found at www.pikepass.com.
In all, commissioners awarded 20 contracts totaling more than $41 million to improve bridges, highways, interstates and roads in 16 counties. Contracts were awarded for projects in Beckham, Cleveland, Delaware, Ellis, Harper, Jackson, Kingfisher, Latimer, Muskogee, Oklahoma, Pittsburg, Pottawatomie, Seminole, Sequoyah, Stephens and Wagoner counties. A list of all awarded contracts can be found by visiting www.odot.org/contracts, selecting the May letting and clicking Go and then Award.
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. Due to the Independence Day holiday, the next meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. July 11.
Contracts, bid information, the commission’s monthly agenda and project details may be viewed at www.odot.org.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation Executive Director Mike Patterson presents a mock up of a highway sign honoring fallen worker Jarrell Gray while speaking at the public display of the National Work Zone Memorial wall in Tulsa. At the Oklahoma Transportation Commission’s Monday, June 8 meeting, a moment of silence was held for Gray, who was recently killed while working along SH-20 in Delaware County. He is the 60th ODOT employee to be killed on the job.
(Editors and News Directors:For more information, call the ODOT Media and Public Relations Division at 405-521-6000.)