DALLAS — Oklahoma is preparing a list of highway projects that could get under way quickly if Congress approves President Obama’s proposed $50 billion infrastructure stimulus program.
Gary Ridley, director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said Wednesday that ODOT is looking for projects that could be financed through the president’s proposed national infrastructure bank.
“We will be prepared to act,” Ridley said at the September meeting of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission.
In a speech on Labor Day, Obama said over the next six years the program could rebuild 150,000 miles of roads, build and maintain 4,000 miles of rail track, and repair and rebuild 150 miles of airport runways.
Following the meeting, Ridley met with field engineers and designers to look at projects that could be under construction as quickly as possible if the president’s plan is adopted.
He said the projects being considered are already on ODOT’s asset-preservation plan or included as one of the 1,750 projects in the state’s $4.3 billion, eight-year construction program that was updated and approved by the commission in August.
“If you get additional money, then you’re ready to go,” Ridley said. “If you don’t, there’s no harm because you’re designing projects you intend to do anyhow.”
Ridley said regardless of the fate of the new stimulus proposal, Congress should approve a long-term funding mechanism for state transportation efforts.
The last program expired a year ago, but congressional resolutions have extended transportation funding at current levels through the end of 2010.
“It’s important that we have a long-term bill,” Ridley said at a news conference following the commission meeting. “I hope that Congress and the administration can get together on that. All states appreciate long-term funding.”
Oklahoma received $465 million for highway projects from the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Ridley said the money was allocated to 274 projects, 148 of which have been completed by the end of August. Contractors have been paid a total of $387 million for the stimulus-financed projects.
The eight-year highway effort is also being financed with $365 million of state bonds issued by the Oklahoma Capitol Improvement Authority. The Legislature approved a two-part, $300 million package of appropriations-backed bonds for ODOT in 2008. The 2010 Legislature authorized an additional $65 million of bonds for the program.