ODOT faces funding crunch

Sunday, September 7th 2008, 10:22 pm
By: News 9

By Jacqueline Sit, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY - Changes in federal highways funding could lead to delays in state construction projects, officials said.

Ninety percent of Oklahoma highway and bridge projects are paid for using federal funds. Even the Interstate 40 Crosstown relocation project could be put on the back burner if state officials don't find a solution or more money soon.

"I know that at least a dozen people at the department have lost sleep over this, literally," ODOT spokesperson Terri Angier said.

Angier isn't sleeping much these days either.

"It's fairly devastating news for Oklahoma," Angier said.

Late on Friday, a notice came in warning the Federal Highway Trust Fund will dry up at the end of this month.

The federal government blames high gas prices, less driving and lower gasoline tax revenue for a $200 million shortfall.

Since federal funding pays for almost all bridge and highway projects in Oklahoma, the state could now be stuck with more of the bill, which could lead to more delays.

"Basically it simply means you go enter into contract and send us a bill and we'll see how much we can pay," Angier said.

Normally, the federal government reimburses ODOT for construction projects on a daily basis, but this shortfall puts the repayments on a weekly basis.

"Even at that, it's only a portion of the reimbursements," Angier said.

Many are wondering if the shortfalls will make ODOT pull the plug on projects like the long anticipated I-40 Crosstown Bridge or the proposed I-40 Pedestrian Bridge.

"You can see that it's not just one or two programs. Any impact it'll have, it'll affect all projects," Angier said.

ODOT spent the weekend crunching numbers and brainstorming a plan of action they will carry to the Oklahoma Transportation Commission on Monday.