Group of 150+ File Lawsuit Aiming To Stop Oklahoma Turnpike Construction Alleging Transparency Violations 


Tuesday, May 24th 2022, 10:58 pm


OKLAHOMA CITY -

More than 150 Oklahomans who live along or near proposed routes for new turnpikes have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the construction.  

Norman attorney Stan Ward filed the lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of 152 residents in the Norman area whose homes could be impacted by ACCESS Oklahoma, a 15-year plan by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority that was unveiled in February.  

Ward told News 9 that another 50 people are looking to join the lawsuit, which was filed against the OTA, Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz, and six members of the OTA Board of Directors.  

The OTA plan called the Advancing and Connecting Communities and Economies Safely Statewide (ACCESS), includes a southward extension of the Kickapoo Turnpike to I-35, north of Purcell, as well as a new route spanning from I-44 near Newcastle to the Kickapoo extension.  

Since Gov. Kevin Stitt announced the plan on Feb. 22, a nonprofit called “Pike Off OTA” has formed to organize efforts to stop the construction. Many members of the group are among the plaintiffs in Ward’s lawsuit.  

Ward alleges the OTA “willfully violated” Oklahoma’s Open Meeting Act and kept residents “in the dark” regarding the ACCESS Oklahoma plan, his petition reads.  

Gatz first introduced the concept of a long-term plan to the OTA board during its December 7 meeting. He listed the potential goals of such a project, including additional access points along turnpikes and routes in south Oklahoma City, but did not provide any specifics.  

“I can’t talk in great detail about what exactly that looks like right now,” Gatz told the board.  

The board voted to award Poe & Associates, an engineering firm, a program management contract at the following meeting on January 25.  

Ward claims in the lawsuit that the agenda for the January 25 meeting did not provide “actual or constructive notice” of the proposed routes through Cleveland County.  

“It is obvious that they masked the agenda,” Ward told News 9. “They did not tell we the people exactly the nature of the business they were going to conduct.”  

Jessica Brown, Strategic Communications Director of the state Transportation Cabinet, which oversees the OTA, said the routes are still proposed and have not yet been finalized.  

“We have been very transparent, we believe, in how we have offered the information, the amount of information we've offered so early in a 15-year-long program,” Brown told News 9 Tuesday. “I'm not sure why anyone should have been surprised by it.”  

An OTA official told News 9 in April that the proposed routes are unlikely to change following the ongoing study.  

Related: Oklahoma Turnpike Officials Hold Noble Townhall As Groups Push To Delay Construction 

Ward is asking a Cleveland County judge to effectively reverse the actions taken so far by the OTA board related to ACCESS Oklahoma, and permanently bar the state from claiming the plaintiff’s property via eminent domain.