The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority held its regular meeting Thursday, March 31, and the board members agreed to seek a $90 million line of credit to help pay the bills that are coming in on the Driving Forward Turnpike expansion program.
Bonds for the $600 million project, that includes the controversial Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike, are not expected to be sold until late this year, officials said.
The resolution passed unanimously to “procure, negotiate and execute a revolving line of credit or other comparable form of bank facility in an amount not to exceed $90,000,000 for the purpose of providing interim financing for capital improvement or construction of authorized Turnpike Projects and providing necessary security therefore pursuant to the Authority’s Trust Agreement.”
The resolution also stated that the “funds are now required to provide interim financing for capital expenditures, including but not limited to right-of-way acquisition and professional services related to the Driving Forward Program consisting of projects related to the Gilcrease Expressway, Muskogee Turnpike, Turner Turnpike, Northeast Oklahoma County Loop, HE Bailey Turnpike and Southwest Kilpatrick Extension.”
OTA wants to be able to pay back the loan in five years.
In other news from the meeting: the annual outside audit, prepared by Grant Thornton, was begun in late February and will be delivered to the Governor’s office. The audit will be made public by the end of April.
The mild winter weather and an extra day in February was credited for a 15% increase in toll revenue. OTA pulled $20 million from our Pikepass accounts or wallets in February, nearly matching the revenue for January. For the year, the turnpike authority is outpacing its own budget by 6.5%.
The state’s original turnpike, Turner between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, brings in the most toll money, at nearly $4.9 million for February. The Will Rogers pulled in more than $4 million.The Chickasaw Turnpike brought in the least amount of toll revenue at $63,000.
The urban turnpikes, the Kilpatrick in Oklahoma City and the Creek in Tulsa, in February outpaced their tolls revenues from Feb. 2015 with the Kilpatrick bringing in nearly $2.9 million and the Creek with $2.2 million.
At each OTA meeting, the Highway Patrol gives a report. Major Michael Harrell, just back from FBI training, reported that troopers made nearly 10,000 “violator contacts” in February, assisted 1,315 motorists and investigated 84 collisions with one fatality. There was only one drug interdiction, on the Will Rogers turnpike. Aircraft enforcement issued 73 tickets and 111 warnings. Troopers also wrote 162 tickets and 809 warnings for toll enforcement.
As part of the interim Director’s comments, Neal McCaleb said the Driving Forward program is progressing. He also expressed sympathy at the death of Phil Tomlinson. Tomlinson served under Governor Brad Henry as Secretary of Transportation and OTA Director from 2003 to 2009. Current Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley also eulogized Mr. Tomlinson, and called him his mentor and friend.
The OTA’s next meeting is April 26, 2016.