DALLAS — Tulsa, Okla., Mayor Kathy Taylor has proposed a 12-year, $2 billion program to improve city streets to a satisfactory condition, including a plan to widen five streets from two lanes to four.
The mayor's street package would be financed in part with $770 million of general obligation bonds supported by gradual increases in the city's property tax rate and the extension and redirection of some existing sales taxes.
Taylor said she wants the council to adopt the revised program by June 26, in time to set a special election for Aug. 26.
The plan, which was outlined to the City Council on Thursday night, adds a $122 million widening component to the 10-year, $1.6 billion street improvement plan proposed by Tulsa City Councilman Bill Martinson in January.
The draft proposal includes $281 million for other capital needs, including new buses for Tulsa Transit, upgrades to the city's telecommunications system, and maintenance at city facilities, including the performing arts center and the convention center.
The mayor said the inclusion of the widening projects into the comprehensive street program was necessary to alleviate traffic congestion in south Tulsa.
Four of the five street-widening projects are located in the district represented by Councilman Bill Christiansen, who has said he would not support a package that did not include widening projects in south Tulsa.
Taylor said at Thursday's meeting that the public works department selected the street-widening projects based on criteria such as public safety, economic development, and pavement condition.
"I'm recommending this as a proposal that we all stand behind and endorse," the mayor said during a meeting.
Martinson, who first proposed the street maintenance program, said he is not convinced that the widening effort should be included.
"My priority is to get the streets fixed," he said on Friday. "This widening project just dropped into our laps this week."
"I think we need to wait and see if these projects are necessary," he added. "If we haven't done that by the end of this month, I'm going to propose we vote to set the election on the street maintenance bonds for August and wait until November for an election on street widening."
Martinson said although street widening might be an acceptable option, he questioned how the five widening projects selected from a list of 47 projects.
"If you rank them by the number of accidents, you have one list," he said. "If you rank them by traffic volumes, you get a different list. And if you rank them by completion difficulty, you get another one."
"I'm not saying the list is not right," Martinson said. "But before we look at spending 120 million of taxpayer dollars on these projects, I want to be comfortable doing it."
The city's GO debt is rated Aa2 by Moody's Investors Service and AA by Standard & Poor's.
The street bonds would be supported by extending until 2021 a combined 1.76% sales tax that includes the city's third-penny 1% sales tax that will expire in early 2013, Tulsa County's 0.0167% Four-To-Fix II sales tax that will expire in 2012, and the countywide 0.6% Vision 2025 sales taxes set to expire at the end of 2016.
Low-income residents and senior citizens would qualify for sales tax rebates under the mayor's draft plan.
If voters approve the plan, Tulsa's property tax rate would rise over 12 years from the current 13.5 mills to 16.8 mills.