The federal government’s labeling of Oklahoma’s bridges as among the top ten safest in the U.S. prompted Republicans in the State House to take credit and at the same time blame Democrats for the previously dangerous bridge conditions that led to a bad reputation for unsafe bridges.
State Rep. Avery Frix, R-Muskogee, chair of the House Transportation Committee, and other Republican members of the committee on Thursday issued a joint statement on the announcement by Gov. Kevin Stitt that the state is now ranked ninth in the nation for the status of highway bridge conditions, according to the latest data from the Federal Highway Administration. This includes interstates, U.S. highways and state highways that are ODOT’s responsibility.
“Since Republicans took the majority in the Legislature more than a decade ago, we have made transportation a priority,” Frix said. “We’ve worked diligently each year to fully fund our Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s eight-year plan and our County Infrastructure for Roads and Bridges plan to maintain state and rural roadways and to repair or replace hundreds of structurally deficient or obsolete bridges throughout the state.”
He called the news of achieving top ten status a “fantastic endorsement of our commitment.”
“Safe and well-maintained infrastructure is the economic lifeline of our state, as it helps us move our families and our products safely and efficiently. It’s another reason to claim Oklahoma as a hub for families and major businesses. Again, this year we made transportation a priority in our state budget, and we will continue that effort so that someday we will be No. 1 in both roads and bridges in America.”
In addition to Chairman Frix, Republican members of the House Transportation Committee include Vice Chair Rep. Ronny Johns, R-Ada, and members Reps. Dean Davis, R-Broken Arrow; Jim Grego, R-Wilburton; Tommy Hardin, R-Madill; Kenton Patzkowsky, R-Balko; Logan Phillips, R-Mounds; Marilyn Stark, R-Bethany; and Kevin West, R-Moore. Republican members of the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee on Transportation include Chair Todd Russ, R-Cordell; Vice Chair Nicole Miller, R-Edmond; Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont; Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee; Lundy Kiger, R-Poteau; Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond; and Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks.
The members said transportation had been underfunded for decades prior to Republicans taking the majority of seats in the state Legislature since 2005. In 2004, nearly 1,200 of Oklahoma’s 6,800 highway bridges were considered structurally deficient, and the state was ranked as low as 49th place in national bridge condition rankings.
That number has been reduced to 86 today, with each of those already scheduled for repair on ODOT’s eight-year plan, according to the department. In addition, the current $879 million CIRB plan calls for replacement or rehabilitation of 313 bridges, 151 that are structurally deficient, over the next five years. These structures are maintained separately by counties.
Source: OK House