Free vs. toll
Neal McCaleb, a former state secretary of transportation, said he has "never seen a free road." "You can have tax roads and you can have turnpikes, the self-financed roads," McCaleb said. People pay taxes, which are used to build and maintain roads. A toll is just a pay-as-you-use fee, he said. The problem, as McCaleb sees it, is that legislators generally get excited about building new roads, but the state rarely appropriates enough money to maintain them. By the numbers
1947: The Legislature creates the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to build a toll road between Oklahoma City and Tulsa. The late Gov. Roy J. Turner proposed the turnpike to encourage commerce. "It was never going to be built with tax money," McCaleb said, "and so the Legislature and Governor Turner decided to build it the only way they could, and that was to finance it with bonds." 606 miles: The cumulative length of turnpikes in Oklahoma, second only to New York, with 641 miles. 7: Members of the Oklahoma Transportation Authority, which manages the state's 10 turnpikes. The authority consists of the governor as an ex-officio member and six members appointed by the governor. Doug Riebel of Oklahoma City is the chairman. Others on the authority are Mike Leonard of Muskogee, Greg Massey of Durant, Clark Brewster of Tulsa, Hal Ellis of Stillwater and Ken Fergeson of Altus. The director is Phil Tomlinson, Gov. Brad Henry's secretary of transportation. $187.3 million: Turnpike toll and concession receipts for 2004 ($185.9 million in tolls and $1.4 million in concessions). McDonald's and EZ Go Foods have concessions leases with the Transportation Authority. The companies also pay a small percentage of sales. 2001: Year of the last toll increase.