The State Supreme Court today gave the nod to a $480 million bond issuance to fund the Driving Forward turnpike program, including the Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike.
The case has been stalled at the state high court since early October following a referee hearing where attorneys for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority pled its case. In addition, the “protestant” Jerry Fent spoke against the bond issuance claiming two issues – logrolling, combining more than one project in a single measure which is unconstitutional, and perpetuity, the argument that the turnpikes are never paid for, also unconstitutional.
Fent lost on both counts in a unanimous decision by the justices. However, some say the court dodged the perpetuity issue.
After faithfully checking the courts each day for the decision, those fighting the EOC turnpike take today’s decisions as a bitter pill to swallow. Fent’s lawsuit on the logrolling issue, separate from this bond issue, was also denied for a rehearing by the court today.
Crouch has been tireless in trying to get any state official to hear the concerns of Eastern Oklahoma County landowners who are in the path of the turnpike. He’d be happy for anyone in power to even give him the time of day or share understanding.
“The court sold us out. The Governor sold us out. The Legislators sold us out. It’s a comfort to know they still have to get past the people; not everyone has agreed to sell their homes and property,” Crouch said.
The court’s conclusion stated: “The proposed bond issue was properly authorized. We find that valid notice of this application was given and that the Authority and the Protestant were fully heard. The Protestant has advanced no legal factually supportable reasons to disapprove the application. Accordingly, the Authority’s application is granted.”
In addition to the $480 million bond financing project, the new toll roads including the EOC connecting I-40 to I-44 between Newalla and Luther will be paid for with higher rates to drive on the turnpikes.
With the favorable Supreme Court response, OTA is ready to rollout the toll hikes. Pikepass holders and cash payers on the state’s toll road system will pay an initial 12% more, then another 2.5% in January 2018, and then another 2.5% in January 2019.
Roughly, if a motorist dumps three quarters into the hopper at the Luther gate on the Turner Turnpike headed to Oklahoma City, the trip will cost another dime. And your cash trip toward Missouri on the Turner and Will Rogers Turnpikes from Luther will cost $10 instead of $8. (Rates are discounted if you use a Pikepass). That’s for the initial increase.
Some in the path of the EOC Turnpike are just satisfied that any decision has been made, as they have been stuck in a quagmire since the lawsuit was filed – not knowing if they would get an offer or be bypassed. The stall of the project also added to concerns for families about routine decisions on whether to buy new land or homes, whether to improve current land with barns, ponds or cattle, or to try not to worry during the uncertain time.
The OTA’s Right of Way Hotline is 1-888-312-2151.