Could Oklahoma soon lead nation in bridge quality?

| Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Gov. Mary Fallin’s goal is to transform Oklahoma bridges from being a punch line to a leading example. She announced a plan this week to fix and repair Oklahoma’s bridges within eight years without resorting to tax and fee increases, including toll taxes.

Oklahoma has 706 state-owned bridges that are rated structurally deficient. The governor’s plan would enable repairs on 539 of the bad bridges. State lawmakers would be responsible for coming up with funding for repairs on the remaining 167 bridges.

Fallin’s Bridge Improvement and Turnpike Modernization Plan relies on lawmakers setting aside an extra $15 million each year for bridge work. It also calls for the annual spending cap on roads and bridges to be raised by about $100 million.

“Having a safe, reliable and modern transportation infrastructure is important for Oklahoma’s economy and important for the safety of our citizens,” Fallin said in a statement.

The state has a long way to go before all bad bridges are addressed. In 2006, the Sooner State topped national lists for the number of deficient bridges.

Since then, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation cut by about 40 percent the number of deficient bridges statewide. The state’s bridge rehabilitation program is credited for assisting the turnaround. In place since 2005, the program contributes about $20 million annually for bridge work.

Fallin said her goal by the end of the decade is for Oklahoma to be among the leaders in the nation for well-maintained highway bridges.

The governor’s plan also calls for projects that would significantly reduce congestion on the Creek and Kilpatrick turnpikes. Specifically, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority would expand the turnpikes in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

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