The 2004 death of a motorist who was struck by a piece of falling bridge debris graphically illustrated the sad state of our bridges. A solid road funding bill came out of the Legislature in 2005. After voters that year rejected a plan to increase the gasoline tax to help fund road and bridge improvements, the Legislature in 2006 passed additional road/bridge funding, putting ODOT in a position to really make a dent in the problem.
“I promise you,” Ridley said after passage of the 2006 legislation, “the Transportation Department will work relentlessly to make Oklahoma's highway system the envy of our neighbors.”
He kept that promise. This year, Fallin signed two bills designed to all but eliminate the state's 700 or so remaining structurally deficient bridges in the next seven years. One bill increases the amount of money directed each year to a fund ODOT uses for fixing bad bridges. The other increases the amount of money counties receive each year to spend on their roads and bridges.
Both bills were authored by T.W. Shannon, who no doubt knew that with Ridley minding the shop, the work would get done.