State Rep. Kevin Wallace said it might not happen for 15 years, but his bill to greenlight a north toll road connecting the Turner Turnpike to I-35 is making its way through the legislative process. The bill seeks to amend the Act that authorizes Oklahoma Turnpike Authority projects (69 O.S. 2021, Section 1705) to include a route from the Turner Turnpike “extending north and west to I-35.“
Seems that language wasn’t included back in the 1980s with all of the other projects including the recently announced Access Oklahoma project. According to Rep. Wallace, the portion is needed to complete an outer toll road loop around Oklahoma City.
If passed, the north route likely would be constructed through Wallace’s district although it is unknown yet where. It could be east of Luther, perhaps near the county line between Oklahoma and Lincoln Counties, taking a path through rural Logan County where the dirt roads are notoriously in poor condition, and curving to I-35 somewhere between Edmond and Guthrie.
The Wellston Republican said he filed his proposed turnpike amendment, HB 4088, in December because the OTA did not have statutory authority for this particular project. Around the same time, the OTA approved its statutory Access Oklahoma proposal that would extend the Kickapoo Turnpike south and west, and widen the Turner Turnpike, among other projects.
“The OTA has had the authorization to go south and west for 35 years. It should be no surprise to anyone in this body or anyone in the state that the OTA was going to do that,” said Rep. Wallace during a debate on the bill at the March 7 house session.
However, State Rep. Merelyn Bell said she was surprised. She also said she would have been six years old when those laws were passed that would lead to the announcement of a toll road coming through the middle of the east Norman district she now represents. “If OTA or ODOT had reached out, the public response would have surely given them pause. I don’t think it’s fair to call it a response, it’s been an outcry.”
A couple of other legislators spoke against the bill, but Wallace had the last word before the vote. “I’m delighted to have given a platform for everyone to vent on something that was granted 35 years ago … at the end of the day, infrastructure and development will happen. The loop will be needed.”
He asked House members to approve the six-word amendment.
The bill passed and will be considered by the State Senate. The Luther Register is monitoring the legislative calendar to look for the bill on the Senate schedule.
Wallace said to avoid uncertainty, he recommends the OTA announce a north map where the toll road might one day be built.
“When the Kickapoo was completed connecting I-40 and I-44, some were displaced. Some bought property in Lincoln County in my house district. With infrastructure and development, there will be growth. I foresee a time that loop will need to be completed. It’s wise to plan for the future and acquire the right-of-way before we decide to break ground and construct.”
“The Turnpike authority is always very fair and generous,” said Wallace who is chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. The Senate author of the bill is his counterpart on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Roger Thompson.