How is the Turnpike Authority Using Money from the Toll Hike?
By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority said it can finally move forward with a number of projects thanks to this year's toll increases.
In August, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority increased the cost of tolls to help make up for a $21 million shortfall from reduced traffic. The economy was to blame for the decrease in traffic on toll roads.
"Last year we were so down in revenue we had to cancel almost $35 million worth of projects," said OTA Spokesman Jack Damrill.
The Turnpike Authority also sold its airplane that was used for traffic enforcement and announced it would not fill 11 open positions.
The authority said drivers would have to pay, on average, an increase of 16 percent, but drivers of 2-axle vehicles with a Pikepass are paying as much as 56 percent more to go from Miami to the state line. It's the same for those going from Wichita Falls entry of the H.E. Bailey Turnpike to the Lawton exit.
"In 2009, up until the toll increase, we basically had everything on hold," said Damrill.
Now, that money is coming back into the agency, board members have given the green light for several projects totaling more than $14 million, including:
- $300,000 toward a new video camera system that's used to catch violators. The new cameras will have wider lenses to help catch those drivers who drive off-road to avoid getting caught by the current cameras.
- $3 million for a contract to a company that will build new on and off ramps near May Avenue and the John Kilpatrick Turnpike. A westbound entrance ramp and an eastbound exit ramp will be added.
- $11 million will go towards a pavement rehabilitation project for 10 miles of road on the Will Rogers Turnpike.
- $144,500 for two new parking areas at the Glass House near Vinita. A total renovation project is planned for the building that currently houses a McDonald's restaurant.
Also planned for the near future are improvements to services plazas and the replacement of the Pikepass boxes drivers use with electronic stickers.
Additional toll increases are not expected at this time. The last increase, previous to this year's, was in 2000.