DALLAS — Oklahoma would replace or rebuild 706 sub-par bridges on state highways by 2019 without raising taxes or fees under a modernization plan outlined Monday by Gov. Mary Fallin.
Fallin said she would ask the 2012 Legislature to increase the annual appropriation into a revolving transportation fund to $56.7 million from the current $41.7 million a year in fiscal 2013. The cap on the fund would be raised to $550 million from the current limit of $435 million.
The transportation fund, which is supported by fuel taxes, would reach the $550 million limit by fiscal 2018, highway department officials said.
State funding for replacing county bridges would grow to $105 million a year from the current $80 million over a three-year period beginning in fiscal 2013. The new funding would come from increased revenues expected as the state economy improves, Fallin said, with no new taxes or fees. The bridge effort is an important component in her push to increase economic activity in the state, according to the Republican governor.
“It is critical that Oklahoma has a reliable transportation system for travel and commerce,” she said in her announcement. “We want to have modern, safe, efficient roads and bridges. Businesses don’t want to set up shop on gravel roads.”
Fallin directed the Oklahoma Transportation Commission to transfer 126 deficient bridges currently on the unfunded list to an eight-year rehab program of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. The new projects, along with 413 already on the funded list, will be financed with ODOT’s current level of annual funding.
The commission met to officially add the 126 projects shortly after Fallin announced the new proposal.
The second phase of the bridge effort would be financed through the legislative changes being sought by Fallin.
It would complete work on the final 167 bridges on the unfunded list. ODOT said it would cost $869 million to rebuild or repair the 293 bridges on the unfunded list.
Department director Gary Ridley, who serves in Fallin’s cabinet as transportation secretary, said increased legislative support for bridge work has resulted in an almost 50% reduction in the number of the structurally obsolete structures since 2005.
When both phases are completed, he said, all 709 spans now considered structurally deficient will be either replaced or restored. Construction on the final projects would begin by late 2019.
Fallin’s plan also includes widening segments of the turnpike system in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority expects to issue $150 million of toll revenue bonds in spring 2012 to add lanes to 15 miles of existing road.
The 2011 Legislature transferred $101.7 million from the bridge replacement fund into the general fund to cover a shortfall. In compensation, ODOT was given authority to issue $70 million of bonds in fiscal 2012.