Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry signed a bill last week authorizing up to $300 million of bonds to fund the state’s eight-year highway and bridge program.

The majority of the proceeds will provide upgrades and improvements on road projects that couldn’t be included in the fiscal 2009 budget due to lagging state revenue, Rep. Mike Thompson, R-Oklahoma City, said when the Legislature authorized the bill last month. Thompson chairs the House transportation subcommittee. 

“The Department of Transportation has laid out a very ambitious plan to fix Oklahoma’s roads and bridges and, unfortunately, the state’s revenue situation made it all but impossible to fund that plan adequately,” Henry said in a release.

“Rising costs for fuel and raw materials mean road projects are becoming more expensive by the day,” he said. “To keep Oklahoma motorists safe and save money in the long run, it is vital that we act now to fix our worst roads and bridges.”

The Oklahoma Capital Improvement Authority expects to issue $150 million of road bonds in August 2009 and another $150 million the following year. The state will use $25 million of the debt to establish a revolving loan program for county road projects.

The road bonds are part of a $475 million bond package the Legislature approved to fund endowed chairs at state colleges and universities, to finance construction of low-water dams on the Arkansas River in Tulsa County and other flood-control projects, and to build the American Indian Cultural Center and Museum in Oklahoma City. The governor also signed bills authorizing the issuance of all the debt.

The state agency carries underlying ratings of AA-minus from Standard & Poor’s and A1 from Moody’s Investors Service.

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