Oklahoma transportation officials Monday approved a road and bridge improvement program for the next five years that will clear the way for more than $903 million of new construction on county roads and bridges in each of the state's 77 counties.
The state Transportation Commission accepted the report, which calls for the money, which will be increased as a result of legislation passed this year, to be distributed equally by the state Transportation Department's eight transportation commissions.
About $316 million of the money in the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges program is earmarked over the five-year period to replace 389 structurally deficient county bridges across the state, according to the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma.
About 75 of the bridges will use recycled beams from the old Interstate 40 Crosstown bridge through downtown Oklahoma City that was torn down this year.
Gayle Ward, executive director of the county commissioner association, said bridge projects already are under way in several counties.
Legislature authorizes funds
The County Improvements for Roads and Bridges program was created in 2006. It authorized 15 percent of motor vehicle fees to go for county road and bridge improvements. The Transportation Department is charged with helping develop a program for how to spend the money.
Previously, the designated money went to the state's main operating fund, the general revenue fund.
Legislators this year passed and Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law House Bill 2249, which over three years increases the share to 20 percent.
It increases annual funding from about $85 million this past fiscal year 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 help allow counties to reuse between 1,500 and 1,800 bridge beams from the old elevated I-40 Crosstown Expressway. The beams from the nearly 50-year-old structure will be used in building as many as 300 county bridges.