Legislation approved six years ago gave Oklahoma a good start toward repairing or replacing its structurally deficient bridges. A plan proposed by Gov. Mary Fallin looks to get us to the finish line sooner rather than later.
Fallin wants to, over several years, increase the amount of money directed from the general revenue fund to the Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver Safety (ROADS) fund, which was formed in 2005 as part of a sweeping transportation bill. If all goes according to plan, the number of deficient bridges in the state would drop to nearly zero by 2019.
It's a bold idea, given the state of the budget in recent years and the continued tough economy. However, Fallin's office points out that much of the additional transportation funding would come from growth revenue, and Oklahoma has enjoyed nice growth in revenue this fiscal year.
The proposal was questioned by the Oklahoma Policy Institute, which is concerned about diverting income tax revenue from an already thin budget. Fallin's spokesman, Alex Weintz, countered that an effort to fix bad bridges “does not reflect a lack of commitment to other areas of government.”
To be sure, Fallin and legislative leaders must look out for education, public safety and other vital state services. Sturdy, safe bridges are vital too, and Oklahoma has too many that aren't. This proposal would reduce that number, benefiting motorists and truckers across the state. The details need to be worked out during budget negotiations next year, but here's hoping the plan comes to pass.