Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation Monday that is expected to provide funding to reduce Oklahoma's structurally deficient bridges from more than 700 to nearly zero by 2019.
“For too long Oklahoma has been listed as one of the worst states in the nation in having structurally deficient bridges,” Fallin said. “It's a funding issue for our state.”
State Transportation Department Director Gary Ridley, who also serves on the governor's Cabinet as transportation secretary, said his agency no longer can complain of being unfunded.
“The department is up to the challenge of working with the private sector, both private-sector engineering firms and the private-sector contractors that will do the work,” Ridley said.
“I can assure you, governor, when you leave office at the end of your second term (in 2019) that we will be at the top of the list with bridges in our country as we compare ourselves to other states,” he said.
“The staff at ODOT will ensure that we honor the commitment that you're going to pen here today in helping fund transportation.”
Facing a room packed with nearly 100 spectators, including road contractors and engineers, transportation advocates and members of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission, Fallin signed House Bill 2248, which calls for an annual increase to a special Transportation Department fund from $41.7 million to $59.7 million. The money comes from income tax collections. The fund will continue receiving an incremental increase of $18 million annually until the fund reaches a $575 million cap; the fund now has $435 million.
The increased payments begin July 1, 2013, the start of the state's 2014 fiscal year.
The money will fund a plan to repair the nearly 170 remaining structurally deficient bridges on the state highway system by 2019.
“Now we can make sure that the Department of Transportation stays ... on its track to replenish and fix those ... structurally deficient bridges,” Fallin said.
County roads, bridges
She also signed HB 2249, which provides more money to counties to spend on their roads and bridges. It increases annual funding from $80 million to eventually more than $111 million.
Beginning in January, the county road and bridge improvement program will receive an additional 0.5 percent increase in the allocation of motor vehicle fees, bringing the total allocation to 15.5 percent. In July 2013, a 2.5 percent increase will raise the total allocation to 18 percent, and in July 2014, a 2 percent increase will bring the total allocation to 20 percent. Each 1 percent increase will generate about $6.2 million in additional funding each year, resulting in an increase of nearly $30 million when fully implemented.
The additional money will allow counties to reuse between 1,500 and 1,800 bridge beams from the old elevated Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway in Oklahoma City. The beams from the nearly 50-year-old structure will be used in building as many as 300 county bridges; about 280 beams have been shipped to eight different areas across the state, Fallin said.