The Oklahoma Transportation Commission last week delayed the awarding of contracts for a number of highway projects due to questions over the continued availability of federal funding.

State Transportation Department director Gary Ridley said the state can only award contracts if it has the money to pay for them. As a result, he said, contracts financed with state or federal stimulus funds can be awarded, but those that rely on other federal sources cannot.

Congress last week failed to approve a measure stopping an $8 billion cut to state highway transportation departments for fiscal 2009, but did authorize a 30-day extension of the highway program that expired Sept. 30.

Ridley said the deferred projects could be added to the contract list in December if the federal funding is assured soon for the remainder of fiscal 2010.

“As engineers, we like to have these things planned out long term,” he told the transportation commissioners. “We have an eight-year construction plan and now we’re dealing with an unknown and uncertainty.”

The state could lose up to $135 million in highway funding over the next 12 to 18 months if the federal program is not renewed, according to Ridley.

Construction contracts have been awarded for almost all the state highway projects financed with federal stimulus funds, he said.

ODOT received $340 million of federal stimulus funding for highway and bridge projects, and for public transportation efforts in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas.

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