Thursday, January 18, 2018

Oklahoma transportation officials suspend highway projects


Tuesday, May 2, 2017
by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Oklahoma Transportation Commission Chairman J. David Burrage urged lawmakers to increase the fuel tax to help highway funding. He said cancelling projects will harm economic development.(The Trucker file photo)
Oklahoma Transportation Commission Chairman J. David Burrage urged lawmakers to increase the fuel tax to help highway funding. He said cancelling projects will harm economic development.(The Trucker file photo)

OKLAHOMA CITY  — Oklahoma transportation officials have suspended construction on about a dozen highway projects, citing uncertainties with the state's budget.

The Oklahoma Transportation Commission voted to defer action Monday on the award of nine highway construction projects, The Oklahoman (http://bit.ly/2psKZe9 ) reported. Executive Director Mike Patterson also announced that a memo has been sent to his division engineers, asking them to scrutinize a list of 80 previously awarded projects.

"We want to make sure that we can meet the financial obligations that we have," Patterson said. "That means that we're going to step back and take a look at what projects we can continue to pay for."

Patterson said transportation officials have ordered the suspension of about 10 of those projects since construction hadn't started or was in the very early stages.

Patterson told commissioners that such cuts were necessary as the Oklahoma Legislature continues to grapple with next fiscal year's $878 million budget hole.

The Senate Tuesday passed legislation that reallocates some income tax revenue set aside for transportation projects and appropriates it for other purposes.

Fiscal analysts say that under the bill, general revenue funding would increase by almost $234 million next year. Transportation projects would receive $337 million in income tax revenue, down from $571 million.

While there have been some discussions about getting some of that revenue back through a fuel tax increase, Patterson said transportation officials can't count on receiving that money.

Chairman J. David Burrage urged lawmakers to increase the fuel tax to help highway funding. He said cancelling projects will harm economic development.

"We've got to get out of the Stone Age," he said. "They need to step off and get this done because here we are talking about canceling projects we've already awarded."

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