Economy leads to fewer trucks on Oklahoma Turnpike

| 3/27/2009

Trucking miles are down on the Oklahoma Turnpike so far in 2009 and officials say the national economy is the primary reason.

All 10 turnpikes in the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority system fell below truck traffic and average daily revenue projections in January and February, Finance Director Wendy Smith said.

A significant decline occurred on the Interstate 44 portion of the turnpike system, she said.

“If you look at the system as a whole, truck revenue was down 12 percent, but if you look at just the I-44 corridor, it’s down 13 percent,” Smith told Land Line on Thursday, March 26.

Smith said she has never seen a 12-percent decline in average daily revenue from commercial vehicles in her 15 years working for the turnpike.

“It’s mostly on our interstate turnpikes, so my theory is that it’s the national economy,” she said. “We think it’s the economy because it seems to be so deep with trucks versus the passenger vehicles. The passenger vehicles are actually up.”

Average daily revenue from commercial trucks was $198,457 in January and February 2009 compared with $224,991 during January and February 2008. Revenue from passenger vehicles was actually up by 5.7 percent from $278,263 to $294,148 for the same time frame.

Combined, overall average daily revenue was down 4.8 percent for the time frame.

Other factors contributed to the January-February decline, Smith said.

Oklahoma experienced a weeklong ice storm in January of this year that affected traffic movement. As additional proof Oklahoma is counting its pennies, Smith also noted that 2008 was a Leap Year, which meant one more day of toll collection in February.

Smith said the board is not ruling out toll increases to make up for shortfalls, but those talks are only preliminary.

“We’re thinking about it, but we’re going to have to continue looking at numbers as they come in for the next maybe three months or so before we make a decision,” Smith said.

– By David Tanner, staff writer