Work on state highways financed by the recently enacted federal stimulus package will begin soon, said Gary Ridley, director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

“We are certainly glad to get this money,” Ridley said at a news conference last week. “Over the decades, funding has been the major issue keeping Oklahomans from driving on the kind of highways they deserve and this will help move our construction program one step further.”

The Oklahoma Transportation Commission has moved its April meeting to late March to accelerate highway work under the infrastructure stimulus package.

ODOT has scheduled three bid openings in March, with projects from the regular program and the stimulus program totaling $440 million. About $340 million is being funded through the stimulus package.

Bids opened in mid-March would normally be awarded in April, but because of the meeting being moved up, they will also be awarded in late March. Highway improvements will include interstate rehabilitation, major bridge projects, and safety projects such as cable barriers.

Ridley said projects scheduled to be awarded as part of the stimulus package had already been deemed necessary and scheduled as part of either ODOT’s eight-year construction work plan or its pavement preservation program. Completing the projects early will allow the department to accelerate other scheduled projects when the work plan is rebalanced this fall, he said.

ODOT’s regularly planned annual construction work plan is about $400 million, so the stimulus program will fund almost one year’s worth of projects.

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