By Ryan Horton
State Rep. Lewis Moore Thursday called for a moratorium on new turnpikes in Oklahoma until an agreement can be made to dedicate the current collection of fees and taxes on fuel, drivers’ licenses and vehicles to roads, highways and bridges.
“We collect enough money to meet our transportation needs without having to resort to building turnpikes,” said Moore. “It is time to hit the pause button on new turnpikes while we reorganize. Constituent concerns and current news articles about traffic projections make a moratorium an even wiser decision at this time.”
More than $500 million a year, in motor fuel and motor vehicle collections, is diverted from taking care of our roads, highways and bridges. Money we think is being used to repair, resurface or build roads is spent elsewhere. Our roads and bridges are a core function of government. Having safe roads for families and school kids to drive on is as important as anything else.
“There is a need for a high speed route in Eastern Oklahoma County linking I-40 to I-44,” Moore added. “We just finished the Hogback Road exit on I-44. It only makes sense to create a super two-lane from I-40 to the Hogback Road interchange. Luther and Triple X Roads are vital North-South roads that need work as well.”
Decades of diverting money, has left a void filled by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. It’s no different than underfunding the Department of Corrections and then giving out private prison contracts, Moore said.
“ODOT is a professional, well-run agency,” Moore said. “We have an eight-year plan because we have a lot of work that needs to be done and now we know we have the money we need if we use it for its intended purpose. Nothing can trump a system of roads and bridges moving our families and commerce safely and spurring economic development. We’ve been living with poor roads and bridges when we’ve had the money to do it right. It is shameful and must stop.”
Moore said the state is chasing the wrong priorities.
“We are not only transferring road projects to for profit bondholders to build, we are considering bonding free roads so we can spend the rest of the money appropriated to ODOT projects and delaying those 8-year projects to 10-year projects to boot,” Moore said.
There was $455.35 million of state motor fuel tax collected in 2015 (see attached chart). The Oklahoma Department of Transportation receives 45.2 percent, county highways and bridges receive 29.1 percent, the Turnpike Authority Trust Fund receives 9.7 percent and the remainder is split up for non-highway uses, tribes, municipalities and transfers to the General Revenue Fund.
Motor vehicle collections in 2015 totaled $764 million. A third of that money went to school districts, another third went to county highways and bridges and the remainder went to general revenue, non-highway uses and municipalities.
“Nearly half of the money was transferred away from highways and bridges,” Moore said. “We have to decide whether we want below average roads, highways and bridges and whether we want the best roads to be owned by the turnpikes.”
Released by the office of Lewis Moore
Address: 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 329
Oklahoma City, OK 73105