Oklahoma Panel Confirms Revamped Eight-Year Work Plan
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK The newly "rebalanced" eight-year plan for highway and bridge projects that the Oklahoma Transportation Commission approved comes with some projects removed from an earlier version and others delayed, the state Department of Transportation said.
Describing the plan for fiscal years 2018-2025, ODOT said that "progress made on the state's transportation system, especially bridges, after decades of deferred infrastructure improvements is expected to slow considerably due to reductions in available state funding since 2010."
It added, "Because the fiscally constrained plan must be balanced with anticipated state and federal funding, ODOT was forced to delay projects and even take the unprecedented action of removing projects from the plan due to $840 million in cumulative state funding reductions in the last seven years."
Executive Director Mike Patterson said that 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.
"The cumulative state funding reductions since 2010 have produced a snowball effect," Patterson said, "where projects have been pushed back later and later and now they're being pushed out of the plan, which changes our strategy and moves us in the wrong direction."
Overall, ODOT said it removed 40 construction projects totaling more than $204 million from the updated plan, and is delaying about 42 percent of all programmed projects by at least one year and sometimes many years. ODOT had originally scheduled 65 projects to go to bid this year that it has now dropped or delayed in the new plan.
In addition, "several projects have been significantly reduced in scope in order to stretch funding as far as possible," the agency said.
The new eight-year plan includes $6.3 billion in projected federal and state transportation funding for 1,448 projects, or nearly 170 fewer than in the previous version.
Its 764 highway bridge replacements or major rehabilitations are 60 fewer than before, and it added just 15 bridge projects compared with 44 in the previous plan.
ODOT said some of the previously scheduled work it has since removed from the project list include part of a realignment of US 70 around Madill and a $32 million replacement of US 60 bridges over the Neosho and Spring rivers in Ottawa County.
Delayed rural projects include rebuilding and widening US 270 near Mutual in Woodward County, reconstruction of US 75 along the east leg of the Inner Dispersal Loop in downtown Tulsa and Interstate 40 interchange reconstruction and widening at Douglas Blvd. in Midwest City.
The department also cautioned about the long-term impact, saying that "project delays ultimately cost Oklahoma taxpayers in increased maintenance necessary to preserve highways and bridges and [in] higher construction costs, which are up 67 percent nationally since 2003. In addition to direct financial costs, Oklahomans also will spend more time stuck in traffic congestion and face rougher roads."
It said the revised, fiscally constrained plan's top priority remains replacing or rehabilitating Oklahoma's existing structurally deficient highway bridges by the end of the decade, but "it falls short on other major needs including improving pavement conditions, adding shoulders to two-lane highways and addressing growing urban highway congestion."
The state is approaching a decade-old goal to improve all remaining structurally deficient highway bridges by 2020, but ODOT estimated that "90 bridges will still have to be replaced or rehabilitated each year just to keep up with the aging infrastructure system" while the new eight-year plan adds just 15.