With another constitutional challenge cleared in court, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is proceeding with his $480 million bond sale to fund its new turnpike program, Driving Forward.
At Tuesday’s OTA meeting, Director Tim Gatz told the Authority that the bond sale will be announced in newspapers next week. Officials later said the announcement will be in newspapers in Bartlesville, Durant, Muskogee, Stillwater, plus The Oklahoman and Tulsa World. The announcement is expected to be on the Pikepass website on Thursday of this week, officials said.
In addition, tolls hikes on all of the state’s turnpikes are delayed and will not go up as of Feb. 1, 2017, as previously announced. OTA will announce the date before the tolls increase. Of a 17% total increase, rates will increase 12% on this first round, with subsequent hikes over the next two years.
The toll hikes are to help pay for the turnpike projects.
Attorney Jerry Fent, a constitutional watchdog, was rejected on all of his challenges at the Oklahoma Supreme Court, most recently on his accusation the OTA engaged in fraud. The court last week simply submitted a rejection, and refused the request for oral argument or for a recusal of one of the justices.
Meanwhile, at the OTA January meeting, the Operations Report included nearly $21 million in engineering design expenditures and obligations connected to Driving Forward and the EOC.
It was at the January OTA meeting a year ago that nearly 400 members of the community attended the meeting to voice frustration over the proposed 21-mile route through homes and land to connect I-40 to I-44 with a new toll road. Opponents remain active, and continue to pursue ways to stop the project – calling on political and legal help.
While engineering work progresses ($21 million reported at Tuesday’s OTA Operations Report), so does the buying of property, and razing structures to make way for the toll road.
In other news from the OTA Jan. 2017 meeting:
- Net tolls revenues for 2016 totaled $265 million.
- About a half-million vehicles drive the state turnpike system daily.
- The Turner Turnpike is the busiest with 2016 YTD revenue at $64 million.
- The Kilpatrick in Oklahoma City experienced the biggest growth for the year, up 6%.
- The Indian Nation turnpike is the only toll road that dipped in revenue from the previous year.
- In December, Turnpike OHP troopers made 11,349 violator contacts, assisted 1,677 motorists and investigated 151 motor vehicles collisions.
In addition, OHP reported five fatalities on the turnpike system in December, and for the year, 33 lives were lost. Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley commented that was a high number but he said the fatality number reflects an upturn in highway deaths nationwide. He attributed some of the increase to inattentive driving with motorists using electronic devices and phones while behind the wheel.