In the next few weeks I plan to release the latest version of the House District 31 transportation update. This update is published periodically in response to great interest expressed by local constituents.
Through the past few years there has been a plethora of good news to report. State and local transportation funding have increased because of a deep commitment on the part of the Legislature and governor to start directing revenues from motor vehicle taxes away from the state’s general fund and into transportation-specific funding. Local officials have also prioritized road and bridge improvement efforts.
Due to the change in legislative leadership a few years ago, state policymakers prioritized the funding of Oklahoma’s roads and bridges. As a result, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation developed an eight-year plan. This plan, updated once a year, seeks to address the years of neglect that left the state transportation system in very bad shape.
The plan begins at the local level where ODOT Field Division engineers make recommendations for projects. Recommendation criteria includes factors such as the amount of daily traffic, percentage of truck traffic, accident history, bridge conditions, etc. The plan is designed so that it allots resources based on need rather than political influence. This is great news for areas such as north Oklahoma and Logan Counties where the need is so great. During the past few years, the plan has funded numerous local projects such as the recently completed Seward Road overpass at Interstate 35 or the four-laning of State Highway 74 from Waterloo to Covell.
Last year, in response to a request from Gov. Mary Fallin, the Legislature once again committed additional funding to the plan. According to the newest and recently released version of the plan, this funding is now set to “virtually eliminate Oklahoma’s bridge infrastructure deficiencies.”
The plan contains funding for four high-priority upcoming projects that local residents care greatly about.
Just about everyone who lives on the west side of Logan County from Crescent to the south, and in the northwest part of Oklahoma County, can attest to the overwhelming need for the completion of the four-laning of State Highway 74 from Covell Road to Memorial Road. This $48 million upgrade is scheduled for January 2015. This upgrade should have occurred many years ago as thousands of drivers use this road each day for driving into Oklahoma City.
Starting in January 2013, ODOT is expected to start purchasing the right-of-way and moving utilities in anticipation of the construction of a new bridge over the Cottonwood and floodplain on Guthrie’s west side. The date for replacement of the current viaduct is currently set for November 2014. Until that time, ODOT has prioritized the maintenance of the current aging bridge structure. The plan expects the project to cost in the area of $15 million.
Later in 2013, ODOT will start acquiring right-of-way to replace the State Highway 77 bridge over the Cimarron north of Guthrie. This $7 million bridge replacement project is currently slated for as soon as the summer of 2016.
The recently released version of the eight-year plan saw the first-time inclusion of a very important project for those who live in south Logan and north Oklahoma Counties. The plan expects the expenditure of $28 million to rework the Waterloo and I-35 intersection. This includes the replacement of the I-35 bridge over Waterloo because the current bridge is not long enough to allow the four-laning of Waterloo. The project will likely require the involvement of the Oklahoma and Logan County governments to maintain a signal system at that busy intersection.
In addition to these four projects, there are numerous other planned improvements scheduled for the local area. You may view the entire plan at hd31.org/376.
In addition to an increased commitment to fund state highways, the Legislature also significantly increased funds for county roads. I expect that this will be the subject of a future article.
REP. JASON MURPHEY, R-Guthrie, represents House District 31, which encompasses all of Logan County and a portion of northern Edmond. He may be reached via email at email@example.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/JasonMurphey and Twitter.com/JWMurphey.