Oklahoma Turnpike affected by trucking downturn

| 7/13/2009

A decline in truck traffic on the Oklahoma Turnpike system has officials there calling for a toll increase.

Officials say an increase in fares is needed to offset declining revenues caused by high fuel prices and other economic factors that truckers and motorists experienced throughout 2007 and 2008.

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s board of directors is scheduled to meet Wednesday, July 15, to discuss whether to pursue a toll increase of about 16 percent.

“Our recommendation is that without a toll increase, it’s going to be difficult to maintain our system as we currently maintain it,” turnpike Spokesman Jack Damrill told Land Line Now on Sirius XM. “Our recommendation will be for the toll increase to occur.”

The 2008 Consolidated Annual Financial Report prepared earlier this year for the Turnpike Authority stated that factors affecting trucking also affected the turnpike.

“The overall decline of $0.5 million in toll revenues resulted mainly from the staggering economy and high fuel costs,” the authors stated.

“In particular, heavy truck traffic was down $1.4 million for the fourth quarter (of 2008) and $1.6 million for the year when compared to 2007 as the result of widespread decreases in consumer demand.”

The Oklahoma Turnpike system consists of 10 roadways totaling 605 miles. Tolls were last increased in 2001.

Damrill said the authority has addressed the issue of traffic diversion that toll agencies experience when they implement increases.

“There obviously always is some drop-off because people are upset at the toll increase, and they want to drive another road. That happens on every toll system in the country, but that’s figured into our numbers,” he said.

“Hopefully that’s a short-lived problem and not a long-term problem.”

– By David Tanner, staff writer

– Staff Writer Reed Black contributed to this report