Budget cuts force delays to Okla. highway projects

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Updated Oct 5, 2017
Projects to reconstruct the I-40 interchange at Douglas Boulevard and widen I-40 to the I-240 junction, pictured here, were delayed from federal fiscal year 2020 to 2025.Projects to reconstruct the I-40 interchange at Douglas Boulevard and widen I-40 to the I-240 junction, pictured here, were delayed from federal fiscal year 2020 to 2025.

Seven years of continued state funding cuts have led the Oklahoma Transportation Commission to drastically reduce and even remove some projects from the state’s 2018-2025 highway and bridge plan.

Forty 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, according to a news release from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. That includes 65 projects scheduled to be bid this year. The ODOT says several projects have also been significantly reduced.

“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,” ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said. “The cumulative state funding reductions since 2010 have produced a snowball effect 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.”

Previously scheduled projects removed from the new plan include realigning U.S. 70 around Madill and the $32 million replacement of the U.S. 60 bridges over the Neosho and Spring rivers in Ottawa County.

Delayed projects include reconstructing and widening U.S. 270 near Mutual in Woodward County, by one year; reconstructing U.S. 75 along the east leg of the Inner Dispersal Loop in downtown Tulsa, by two years; and reconstructing and widening the Interstate 40 interchange at Douglas Boulevard in Midwest City, by five years.

The ODOT says this will mean higher maintenance costs in the long-run, more traffic congestion and rougher roads.

The plan’s top priority, however, remains replacing or rehabilitating structurally deficient highway bridges by the end of the decade, the ODOT says.