The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority held its monthly meeting on Monday. Authority members unanimously approved “design route alignments on the Driving Forward Program” for the Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike and the Southwest Kilpatrick expansion.
The agenda item read:
In 1987, by passage and approval of House Bill 1259 (69OS 1705 (e)(20), the Legislature specifically authorized the turnpike projects that are referred to in the Driving Forward Program as the Southwest Kilpatrick Extension and the Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike. Pursuant to 69 OS 1705 (e), once turnpike projects are authorized by the Legislature, the OTA is expressly authorized to construct, repair and operate them at locations and on such routes as it determines to be feasible and economically sound. In connection with its evaluation of these legislatively authorized turnpike projects, the OTA engaged the engineering firm of Poe & Associates to investigate, study and provide conceptual designs including route alignments. In addition, the OTA sought input from the public as to the impact on local communities. Based on this collaborative process, the proposed final route alignments for the Southwest Kilpatrick Extension and the Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike are attached.
The location of these respective turnpikes have also been submitted for approval to the State Transportation Commission as required by 69 OS 1701.
Engineering State and the Consulting Engineer have reviewed the proposed alignments and recommend approval.
Not wasting time, OTA Interim Director Neal McCaleb, Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley and a couple of authority members took their newly approved design phases for EOC and SW Kilpatrick straight to the regular meeting of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation meeting just an hour later. ODOT officials say they added the Driving Forward item to their agenda last Friday.
ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson praised the turnpike authority for doing what his agency could not do for lack of state funding.
Ridley said Governor Mary Fallin wanted to make sure the state doesn’t fall behind in road construction to accommodate forecasts of future growth.
“We are really trying to address serious problems because a 30-minute drive from Norman to Oklahoma City at times of the day can be a two-hour drive especially if someone has a flat tire. This is the start of making those improvements that will be here long after we’re gone. The governor is proud and pleased that both organizations are working together to try to solve the problem,” said Ridley.
ODOT Board Chairman David Burrage asked McCaleb about the financial aspect of building new turnpikes.
“OTA is one of the highest-rated of such organizations in the country. We have a AA rating, that’s because for over 63 years, there has been careful management and sensitivity to fiduciary responsibility,” said McCaleb.
Burrage praised both McCaleb and Ridley for being long-time planners and stewards of Oklahoma’s transportation system. “I know you don’t take lightly the state or OTA incurring debt. … I appreciate you personally and professionally for being willing to take the criticism 20 years ago and the criticism today and challenges. If we don’t do this, we are going to fall farther and farther and farther behind. This is so important to our state, we’re thinking in the future, also thinking about tomorrow,” said Burrage of Atoka who represents the Southeast Oklahoma transportation district.