A protest march along the proposed EOC turnpike route …
A petition drive to put turnpikes to a vote of the people …
If you follow the discussions on the social media pages of those against the Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike, you get the idea that the group is not giving up. Not by a long shot. After all, it worked in 1999.
Although their noise, capitol protests, persistent calls to elected officials and bond experts and research has not seemed to make the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, Governor or the legislature budge. Aside from an eleventh-hour call for a turnpike moratorium from State Rep. Lewis Moore in the midst of a state budget mess, and some help from other officials actively running campaigns, the anti-turnpike crowd has not had an ear to stop the $300 million project that will run 21-miles through farm land and home places in rural Eastern Oklahoma County.
A front-page story in the state’s largest newspaper plus an investigative piece on a television station Tuesday night, however, is keeping the issue in the forefront.
For many, no doubt, the protest is about property rights, preserving a rural way of life that is dwindling, and general “not in my back yard” objections. But for many others, the issues are deeper – even deeper than a basic mistrust the government. The signs at the protests tell part of the story: “AUDIT OTA,” “investigate OTA,” “Where are the traffic studies?” “Why?”
Tom Elmore, who leads the North American Transportation Institute, has battled the state’s road bureaucracy for 30 years.
“Our state government has NEVER performed the most basic exercise required for proper management of the public roads we paid to build and placed in its trust – a highway user-cost-recovery audit known as a HIGHWAY COST ALLOCATION STUDY,” he wrote in comments on The Luther Register story “Capitol Rally to STOP the Turnpikes.”
Elmore also claims the state has never effectively collected proper fees for road use. “How can ANYBODY manage roads and bridges effectively without knowing what each class of users must be charged? How can we possibly come out charging the heavy trucks inflicting thousands of times the damage done by autos “3-cents-less state fuel tax per gallon” than the autos pay?
Meantime, companies hired to work on the new turnpike projects are sending letters and postcards to those in the way of way of the proposed turnpike routes, and bonds anticipated to be offered for sale by the end of the year. And the anti-turnpikers keep fighting – considering a march along the route and a review of the OTA’s latest outside audit.