The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority voted to raise toll rates across the state at a meeting of its board members this week, but the raises may not happen because of a lawsuit filed with the state’s supreme court.
The increase will be 17 percent according to OTA, but it won’t come all at once. If everything goes according to plan to OTA, the raise will happen in three phases. The first raise of 12 percent will happen January 1, of next year. In January of 2018, another two and a half percent will go up on tollway signs and the final two and a half percent will happen in July of 2019
“This allowed us to phase it in knowing how much money we would need each time, knowing how much we would need in order to pay for the new projects and the new bonds so this hopefully will be a little easier on customers,” OTA spokesman Jack Damrill said.
The money will be used to pay for the cost of several projects around the state including a lengthy turnpike from Bristow to Tulsa. It will also help pay down a portion of the $900 million bond that’s still yet to be sold off.
The bond also puts the Authority’s debt over $2 billion, with added interest. According to Damrill, OTA’s current debt is roughly $850 million, but with interest added onto that it’s more like $1.2 billion. He said depending on which number is used, OTA’s debt hovers just above or just below $2 billion.
The lawsuit, filed by Oklahoma City attorney Jerry Fent back in August, accuses OTA of bundling four different projects together under the same bond, which he says is unconstitutional according to a law from 1987. Damrill said OTA just wants to move on.
Best case scenario that the case would be resolved quickly and we would prevail in court and if that's the case we could go ahead with the bond sales,” Damrill said.
Sales they desperately need to avoid a longer wait on rate hikes they know driver won't like but the roads they use need.
“It's no secret that people don't like tolls but we are here for a reason. We provide, we think we provide a service to the state of Oklahoma that's been beneficial over the years,” Damrill said.