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Oklahoma Turnpike board trims budget

Oklahoma Turnpike board trims budget

 

Transportation: Plane will go; 11 jobs won’t be filled

 

BY MICHAEL MCNUTT - The Oklahoman
Published: October 30, 2009


The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has sold its airplane and will not fill 11 positions next year as it anticipates the economic slowdown to continue.

Turnpike Authority members Thursday approved an operations and maintenance budget of about $67.2 million for the 2010 calendar year. The budget, which takes effect Jan. 1, is $370,408 less than this year’s budget.

Commercial truck traffic the past month is down to the same level as in 2004, said Wendy Smith, director of finance and revenue for the Turnpike Authority.

Commercial traffic in September was down about 10 percent compared with the same month a year ago, she said.

The toll increase for all 10 turnpikes that went into effect in August resulted in a 14 percent increase in toll revenue during September compared with a year ago, she said.

Passenger vehicle tolls were up nearly 6 percent in September compared with a year ago, she said. The increase in passenger traffic is attributed partly to lower fuel prices.

The toll increases should generate $213.1 million next year, compared with $199.4 million expected to be collected by the end of this year.

The Turnpike Authority does not receive appropriations from the state.

"We were really making a concerted effort with the state’s economy to really try and keep our expenses down and to put the money we get through the toll increase into the roads,” Smith said. "That’s why we cut operating costs.”

The authority hopes to save $100,000 in expenses next year by getting rid of its single-engine airplane, which was used primarily for speed-limit enforcement, said Jack Damrill, spokesman for the Turnpike Authority.

The authority turned it over to the state Department of Public Safety, which will repay the authority by flying speed-enforcement assignments at no cost. Trooper pilots employed by the authority will be assigned to the Public Safety Department, Damrill said.

The budget also calls for not filling 11 positions next year, reducing the number of employees to 605. Eight of those are toll workers; they will be replaced by toll machines.

The Turnpike Authority’s capital budget will be $56.8 million, down from $71.7 million this year. Money goes for work such as paving, bridge and slope repair, and interchange improvements.



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