Henry, ODOT Prepared For Federal Funds

Tuesday, December 2nd 2008, 11:00 pm
By: News 9

By Dave Jordan, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Governor Henry met with President-elect Barack Obama in Philadelphia Tuesday, hoping to get some federal dollars into Oklahoma.

The money would be used for bridge and road repair.

The state's Department of Transportation has requested $800 million, which is how much it will cost to fix the worst of Oklahoma's roads and bridges.

Obama's economic team has a program to put people to work to execute the repairs.

Some are comparing it to the Work Projects Administration, launched back in the 1930s.

Guthrie's Jelsma Stadium and Taft Stadium in the metro are just two of the lasting monuments created by the Works Projects Administration.

WPA was created during the Great Depression to make use of skilled, older workers by having them build public roads, highways and buildings.

"In eastern Arkansas, the Depression hit about 1930," said Hank Harvey, whose father is working with WPA. "It lasted up until World War II. There were hundreds of people. Nobody had a job, nobody had any money."

Hank Harvey's father, Hank Senior, was an out of work mechanic during the Depression. He spent 18 months working on a WPA community project and was paid $5 a week.

"That $5 that WPA paid really was a difference between going hungry and not going hungry," Hank Harvey said. "I never remember going hungry."

While the country isn't currently in a depression, President-elect Barack Obama wants to jump-start the economy with a stimulus package that would put millions of people to work fixing the nation's infrastructure.

Governor Brad Henry, along with 48 other governors, met with Obama in Philadelphia. Henry took with him a report on Oklahoma's bridges and roads, compiled by ODOT.

"We have been very proactive on the stimulus package," Terri Angier of ODOT said. "Obviously, no one at this point knows what's involved in it, but we wanted to be very ready so that when the announcement is made, we are ready to go."

Angier estimated fixing Oklahoma's roads and bridges would cost about $800 million. Obama's stimulus package is said to be about $500 billion. Governor Henry's office said the money would be well spent.

"One of the best things to get jobs created and to keep things rolling is through transportation projects and capital improvements," Henry's spokesperson, Paul Sund said.

Obama said his plan would create about 2.5 million jobs.

If the new Congress passes Obama's stimulus package in January, ODOT hopes to see some federal money by spring.