Road construction strains state transportation budget

Monday, July 14th 2008, 9:39 pm
By: News 9

By Charles Bassett, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Not only do gas prices affect how you travel, but they also affect the roadways that get you there.

One Oklahoma lawmaker is predicting a $172 million shortfall in the state's transportation budget due to fuel costs. The shortfall is expected to affect current and future road projects.

One of the biggest road construction projects underway here in the metro is the new Interstate 40 Crosstown. It could be slowed down or scaled back if the funding isn't there to keep in going.

The state's Department of Transportation could soon be running into some roadblocks of its own.

"It certainly will affect all of our state projects, but also city projects," Gary Ridley, Director of Oklahoma Department of Transportation said. "I'm sure county governments will be affected as well."

The state gets federal funding from the Highway Trust Fund. The trust is funded through prices paid at the pump.

It gets about 18 cents for every gallon of gas sold, and 24 cents for every gallon of diesel sold. Fuel usage is down, however, due to high gas prices.

Senator Jim Inhofe said the state could lose $172 million in federal funding if something isn't done. Projects that could be affected include major construction in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas.

Last week, the U.S. Senate voted to restore $8 billion to the Highway Trust Fund, but the House has been slow to act on the measure.

In a statement Sen. Inhofe said, "This fix needs to be enacted into law as soon as possible... in order to avoid cutbacks by the States in their planned transportation improvement projects for 2009."

"I think just as our state legislature and governor have helped solved the problem as far as state funding is concerned, I think Congress and the administration have to come up with a solution at the federal level," Ridley said.

ODOT said the shortfall could also cost the state 6,000 jobs; these are industry jobs, meaning the contractors who do the work.