February Commission Meeting Wrap-Up: Highway clearing operations during historic winter storm detailed, nearly $113 million in contracts awarded
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 18, 2021
Press Release #21-005
Highlights of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission’s Tuesday, Feb. 16 special video teleconference meeting include a report on the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s ongoing response to the major winter storm affecting travel in all 77 counties, comments on state and federal transportation funding and updates on major projects in Mayes and Oklahoma counties. Other actions include announcement of an upcoming milestone anniversary of eastern Oklahoma’s freight waterway system and the agency’s new driver safety education and awareness effort, along with approval of a contract for construction of the state’s next Port of Entry weigh station in Bryan County. Contracts were awarded for major projects on I-35 in McClain County, SH-20 in Rogers County and MacArthur Blvd. in Oklahoma County.
Secretary of Transportation and ODOT Executive Director Tim Gatz briefed commissioners on the state’s transportation agencies’ ongoing effort to clear highways and combat the historic winter storm affecting most of the state. He noted that ODOT crews in all 77 counties, along with OTA crews and private sector construction contractors have been working since early February in the face of extremely low temperatures and various waves of snow to keep Oklahoma highways, interstates and turnpikes in operation. The extreme conditions and long duration of this winter storm have been challenging to transportation crews, and total costs to the state will not be known until after the storm is finished.
“Every storm is different, and this is one of the largest and most powerful winter storms I’ve seen in Oklahoma during my career,” Gatz said. “I really want to thank Oklahomans who heeded the warnings and stayed home and our 1,500 employees in the field who have been working around-the-clock for more than a week to keep our highways as good of shape as possible against the odds.”
Gatz commented on the state budget outlook and opportunities for working with lawmakers on state transportation funding this current legislative session. He noted that Gov. Kevin Stitt’s executive budget proposes restoration of the full statutory fuel tax appropriation to ODOT and possible use of bonds to cover the $180 million reduction to the Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver Safety Fund scheduled for 2022. Regarding federal transportation funding, Gatz said that the department is working to sub-allocate some of the $154 million in federal COVID-19 relief funding that ODOT received to Oklahoma’s metropolitan areas, public transit providers and counties to help sustain critical transportation operations.
In updating the commission on projects, Gatz was pleased to report that the SH-28 bridge at the Pensacola Dam between Disney and Langley was reopened on Jan. 31, more than one month ahead of schedule. The next closure, as part of the ongoing bridge rehabilitation project, will begin in late March, allowing a scheduled community event at the dam to take place. Additionally, he noted that the Kickapoo Turnpike in eastern Oklahoma County is now fully open between I-44/Turner Turnpike and I-40. The south segment of the new turnpike opened ahead of schedule and remains under construction by OTA through the spring.
Gatz noted that 2021 is the 50th anniversary of the opening of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System in eastern Oklahoma and that ODOT will be kicking off an extended celebration on Feb. 19 in partnership with the Arkansas Waterways Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and port operators.
He also highlighted ODOT and OTA’s new driver safety education and awareness effort, dubbed “Make Safety Stick: Everybody Click.” The year-round awareness effort, undertaken with assistance from other safety partners, is focusing on educating drivers and encouraging behaviors that reduce crashes and save lives, including seatbelt use, attentive driving and proper merging.
Commissioners voted to award a nearly $18 million contract for construction of a new Port of Entry weigh station on US-69/75 near the Texas state line in Bryan County. The new state-of-the-art facility will be used by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to weigh and inspect commercial trucks coming into the state from Texas and a virtual weigh station will be added on the southbound lanes to weigh trucks while in motion. The US-69/75 corridor carries interstate levels of traffic and a high percentage of commercial truck traffic.
The commission also approved contracts for several major projects, including I-35 pavement rehabilitation just south of SH-59 near Wayne, installation of four miles of cable barrier on SH-20 near Claremore and reconstruction of one mile of MacArthur Blvd. in Warr Acres using federal funds by ODOT.
Commissioners voted to award 35 contracts totaling nearly $113 million to improve highways, roads and bridges in 28 counties. Contracts were awarded for projects in Alfalfa, Beckham, Bryan, Caddo, Cleveland, Coal, Garfield, Grady, Harper, Johnston, Kay, Kingfisher, Kiowa, LeFlore, Love, Mayes, McClain, Oklahoma, Okmulgee, Osage, Ottawa, Pontotoc, Pushmataha, Rogers, Seminole, Sequoyah, Stephens and Washington counties. A list of all awarded contracts may be found by visiting www.odot.org/contracts, selecting the January 2021 AM letting, clicking Go, then Award.
All commissioners participated in the meeting virtually due to COVID-19 precautions. A recording of this meeting may be viewed online at https://vimeo.com/odot.
The nine-member Oklahoma Transportation Commission, appointed by the governor and legislative leadership to oversee the state’s transportation development, awards contracts for road and bridge construction monthly.
Next month’s Oklahoma Transportation Commission meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, March 1, and will have a quorum of commissioners while observing social distancing. The meeting also will be available to view live on the web.
Contracts, bid information, the commission’s monthly agenda and project details can be viewed at www.odot.org.
(Editors and News Directors: For questions, please call the ODOT Media & Public Relations Division at 405-521-6000.)