Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials approved the addition of $20 million to its preservation fund in an effort to help extend the life of some of the state’s crumbling roadways.
The addition was approved Monday at a commissioners meeting.
ODOT splits its budget into three separate budgets; maintenance, construction and preservation. Each budget had been set in September. Both the maintenance and construction work plans are eight-year plans. The preservation plan only extends through 2019.
The commissioners approved the $20 million amount, bringing the total amount of the four year plan over $475 million. The plan is designed to fix small problems, like potholes or cracking, to hopefully extend the life of a section of roadway up to five years, ODOT spokesperson Terri Angier said.
The $20 million came from a cash fund ODOT has set aside for the last seven years. It's used to ensure they have money to pay contractors for jobs already underway. Officials say it’s a safeguard against falling gas tax revenue as cars become more fuel efficient and during years when federal government shutdowns threaten federal highway funding
“It's like if you had a checking account and a savings account and you took the money out of your savings and put it in your checking to be able to spend it,” Angier said.
It’s no secret Oklahoma’s road system has taken a beating. After harsh winter conditions and record spring flooding, the state’s highways have been left battered, Angier added.
The road condition has also been under scrutiny in recent years. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Oklahoma roads a “D” grade.
“Our pavements haven't been in great condition because frankly we're focusing primarily on bridges right now but given these three issues we really have to look and see how we can preserve what we do have,” Angier said.
She also asked drivers for their patience if they drive through new work zones that could be created because of the new funds. It was not clear Tuesday which portions of state roads the funding would be diverted to first.