The Decision-Making Behind Opening, Closing Turnpikes

Thursday, February 3rd 2011, 9:55 pm
By: News 9

Rusty Surette, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY – When severe weather or tragedy strikes, two state agencies work together to decide when to open and close turnpikes across the state.

When the weather gets bad, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority relies heavily on state troopers who are out on the highways. Most of the time the troopers make the recommendations to shut the turnpikes down if they feel conditions are too risky for drivers.

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority can also make the same decision, even without the recommendation from state troopers.

The accident in Miami that killed three people and injured five others is now on the minds of state lawmakers because it happened less than nine hours after one of two westbound lanes of the turnpike reopened. The Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Sen. Gery Stanislawski, said lawmakers are planning to discuss if it could have been prevented.

"We'll have some part to play in determining could it have been preventable? Could we make changes in our transportation system in the future? And if so is there any legislation that we need to do to help them and help make our roads and bridges safer for all of our people in Oklahoma? said Sen. Stanislawski.

The spokesman for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority said the agency has always stressed even if the turnpikes are open in bad weather, motorists are urged to avoid driving unless it's absolutely necessary.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation said it plays no role in the decisions of opening and closing the turnpikes.