Fuel tax sought for Oklahoma roads, bridges

| 9/17/2004

A coalition launched a petition drive Sept. 15 for a statewide vote to raise fuel taxes to fix Oklahoma’s roads and bridges.

Neal McCaleb, chairman of Oklahomans for Safer Bridges and Roads, said the petition will propose raising the state’s diesel fuel and gasoline taxes to 22 cents a gallon over four years.

Currently, the diesel tax is 14 cents per gallon and the gasoline tax is 17 cents per gallon.

If adopted by voters, the proposal also would create a trust fund or “lock box” for fuel tax revenue so it could not be used for anything except highways and bridges.

“We have 135 bridges in the state highway system that are over 80 years old,” McCaleb, former state secretary for transportation, told The Oklahoman.

Of the 6,728 bridges on the state’s highway system, 481 need to be replaced and 1,116 are in dire need of repair, McCaleb said. More than 25 percent of the state’s 12,266 state highways and interstate highways are rated inadequate or critical.

The increase in the fuel taxes would raise an estimated $150 million a year, he said.

Cities and counties would get 10 percent each of the increased revenue for roads and bridges.

The rest would go to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

The coalition has until Dec. 15 to collect 155,000 signatures of registered voters to get the proposal on an election ballot.