Road projects slowed by budget woes

The Oklahoma Transportation Commission voted on Oct. 2 to approve the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s new eight-year construction plan, which includes highway and bridge projects for federal fiscal years 2018-2025.

In Oklahoma’s urban areas, reconstruction of U.S. 75 along the east leg of the Inner Dispersal Loop in downtown Tulsa and I-40 interchange reconstruction and widening at Douglas Blvd. in Midwest City were delayed two years and five years, respectively.

Because the fiscally constrained plan must be balanced with anticipated state and federal funding, ODOT was forced to delay projects and remove projects from the plan due to $840 million in cumulative state funding reductions in the last seven years.

“It was very challenging and frustrating to rebalance the eight-year Plan while keeping our commitment on structurally deficient bridges and trying to address pavement conditions and urban highway congestion,” Executive Director Mike Patterson said. Overall, 40 construction projects totaling more than $204 million were removed from the updated Eight-year Plan and about 42 percent of all programmed projects are being delayed at least one year, including 65 projects that were originally scheduled to go to bid this year. Additionally, several projects have been significantly reduced in scope in order to stretch funding as far as possible.

The federal fiscal year 2018-2025 Eight-year Plan includes:

  • $6.3 billion in federal and state transportation funding
  • 1,448 total projects (nearly 170 fewer than the previous plan)
  • 764 highway bridge replacements or major rehabilitations (60 fewer than the previous plan)
  • Only 15 bridges were added, compared to 44 in the previous plan
  • 696 miles of added shoulders or other improvements to two-lane highways (55 fewer miles)
  • Nearly 150 miles of interstate pavement improvements
  • Nearly $370 million in projects to address urban highway congestion

Examples of previously scheduled projects that have been removed from the new plan include work as part of realignment of U.S. 70 around Madill and $32 million replacement of the U.S. 60 bridges over the Neosho and Spring rivers in Ottawa County near Miami.

Delayed rural projects include reconstruction and widening of U.S. 270 near Mutual in Woodward County.

The plan’s top priority remains replacing or rehabilitating Oklahoma’s existing structurally deficient highway bridges by the end of the decade.

Even as the state nears its decade-old goal to address all remaining structurally deficient highway bridges by 2020, ODOT estimates that 90 bridges will still have to be replaced or rehabilitated each year just to keep up with the aging infrastructure system. Only 15 bridges were added to this Eight-year Plan.

The Asset Preservation Plan contains preventative maintenance projects designed to extend the life of transportation infrastructure. The more than $473 million plan has nearly 400 projects addressing 147 bridges and more than 1,200 miles of pavement. The plan also features 44 projects to improve highways to Americans with Disabilities Act standards with curb ramps, traffic signal push buttons for pedestrians, crosswalks and sidewalks.

Funding comes from state income tax allocation and state motor fuel tax appropriation, as well as the federal Highway Trust Fund.