Oklahoma’s state government budget hole forced a change this week in the eight-year highway improvement plan of the State Department of Transportation.
The Oklahoma Transportation Commission voted to trim its long-term plan, remove some projects and delay others, moves that are expected to slow progress made in the state’s bridges. The plan had been filled with several highway and bridge projects for the Federal Fiscal Years 2018-2015.
“It was very challenging and frustrating to rebalance the Eight-year Plan while keeping our commitment on structurally deficient bridges and trying to address pavement conditions and urban highway congestion,” said Executive Director Mike Patterson.
He explained that because the highway plan has to be balanced with anticipated state and federal funding, ODOT was forced to delay projects and remove some because of $840 million in cumulative state funding cuts over the past seven years.
“The cumulative state funding reductions since 2010 have produced a snowball effect where projects have been pushed back later and later and now they’re being pushed out of the plan, which changes our strategy and moves us in the wrong direction,” said Patterson.
Overall, 40 construction projects totaling more than $204 million were removed from the updated Eight-year Plan and about 42 percent of all programmed projects are being delayed at least one year, including 65 projects that were originally scheduled to go to bid this year. Additionally, several projects have been significantly reduced in scope in order to stretch funding as far as possible.
The new eight-year plan includes 1,448 total projects which is a reduction of 170, the addition of 15 bridges instead of 44 in the previous plan and a total of 764 highway bridge replacements which is 60 fewer.
One of the projects removed from the new plan is the $32 million replacement of US 60 bridges over the Neosho and Spring Rivers in Ottawa County. Reconstruction of US 75 along the east leg of the Inner Dispersal Loop in downtown Tulsa and the I-40 interchange reconstruction and widening at Douglas Boulevard in Midwest City were delayed two years and five years respectively.