Proposed cut in federal highway funds would affect Crosstown Expressway project in Oklahoma City

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: July 12, 2011
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Proposed deep cuts in federal highway spending over the next six years would have a devastating effect on Oklahoma's eight-year road- and bridge-building plan and likely would delay key projects, including completion of the new Crosstown Expressway, the state's transportation secretary said Monday.

With Congress at odds over how to fund transportation, the chairman of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., has proposed a six-year transportation reauthorization bill that calls for spending about $230 billion, or nearly 20 percent less than the last long-term bill that was signed into law in 2005, Gary Ridley told members of the state Transportation Commission during its monthly meeting Monday. When money from the federal stimulus program is factored in, the bill would cut transportation spending by about one-third from current levels.

“It would almost be impossible for us to keep the current eight-year program intact,” said Ridley, who also serves as state Transportation Department director in addition to serving as serving as transportation secretary on Gov. Mary Fallin's Cabinet.

Oklahoma receives nearly $600 million in federal transportation funds a year, Ridley said. A cut of one-third would be about $200 million.

Ridley said the cut would be so extreme his agency would be unable to protect the $670 million Crosstown Expressway project, the most expensive project in state history. The seven-year project to relocate Interstate 40 through downtown Oklahoma City is scheduled to be completed next year.

“When you talk about those kind of numbers, everything is at risk,” he said. “You just can't say that something is going to be protected over everything else.”