When comparing $164 million to about $20,000, it’s almost laughable that a group of citizens opposed to Oklahoma turnpikes can defeat Goliath. But an underdog story is compelling, because of that little shepherd kid David who toppled the Philistine giant of the Old Testament.
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority last week approved $164 million of engineering work on the proposed Eastern Oklahoma County turnpike – the toll road progresses while residents and other supporters are, dollar by dollar, putting their resources into a legal war chest to fight the road.
“The go fund me is doing very well and we are still receiving checks in the mail as well; so overall, we are preparing for the future battle,” said organizer Paul Crouch.
“We continue to feed our legal team with information concerning OTA funding, cross-pledging, and money OTA receives from Oklahoma gas tax for no good reason,” he said.
Through this process a community has formed. It is made up of taxpayers, who are retired or on fixed-incomes, ranchers and farmers, young families, local leaders and others opposed to turnpikes. They share information and sightings of surveyors and other agents related to the project in the area. And they are undaunted.
One donor to the cause is former gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson of Tulsa who has spoken at a couple of anti-turnpike rallies at the capitol. He put in $250 with this comment;
“Stay after them. They are slowly but surely eating up the State of Okla. like cancer in a body with, these Turnpikes. Destroying economic development. On top of that, the State of Okla (the people) don’t get a dime from the turnpike fees. Its criminal,” said Richardson.
Others have given $20 or $100 or $15. Crouch thinks it will add up.
Meantime, The Luther Register edited a story at the request of OTA spokesman Jack Damrill through an email.
“Your story from the board meeting has some misinformation in it and is causing some alarm from people.
Surveyors currently out looking at land have nothing to do with right-of-way acquisition. Surveyors are out working on design of the roadway and are not connected to the right-of-way acquisition. They are only working on design,” wrote Damrill.
Right-of-way consultants are only looking at parcels of land that we know we will need all of their land, what we call total takes. It does not include partial pieces of property.
To summarize, surveyors are in the EOC area, but that is separate from the right of way consultants appraising land. Further, the only land being appraised currently are for those who are “total takes” – not landowners who might have the road coming through part of their land – forcing landowners to remain in limbo.
Crouch said he didn’t think the original story (now edited to remove the word surveyor from a paragraph about right of way acquisition) was misleading.
“They are not informing the people very well and if they have multiple survey crews out doing different jobs then they should make that well-known,” said Crouch.
The Driving Forward website answers some questions on its FAQ section and repeatedly invites citizens to call the Right of Way Hotline. One response answers the question “how close the turnpike has to be to a property before it will be bought by OTA:”
The OTA will work on a case-by-case basis with property owners to determine the best procedure for reducing impact locally. If the OTA identifies that enough damages will occur, or if property will be severely impacted, they will look at a purchase of the total property. Should you have questions or concerns about your property, please call our right-of-way hotline at 1-888-312-2151.