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Okla. turnpikes’ revenue down, higher tolls eyed

Okla. turnpikes’ revenue down, higher tolls eyed

 

Journal Record

July 14, 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY – With revenue down, the state’s toll-road agency will consider raising the cost of traveling on Oklahoma’s 10 turnpikes when it meets this week.

If tolls aren’t raised, “the maintenance of our system is going to really take a hit,” said Jack Damrill, spokesman for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

“We still think we have the best roads in the state, and in order to maintain them, it looks like a toll increase is what needs to happen,” Damrill said.

The increase would be the first since 2001. Damrill said the higher tolls are necessary to make up for declining revenue, mostly caused by a continuing slide of commercial truck traffic during the national recession.

The authority will take up the issue when it meets Wednesday.

A decline in truck traffic makes a big dent in turnpike revenue because tractor-trailers and commercial trucks pay a higher rate than passenger vehicles.

Damrill said traffic is up on turnpikes in urban areas – the John Kilpatrick in Oklahoma City and the Creek in Tulsa – but increases in revenue from those roads can’t compensate for the trucking decline because they are for shorter distances. The Turner, Will Rogers and H.E. Bailey turnpikes are part of Interstate 44, a key trucking corridor.

Revenues are down about 3 percent compared with last year, he said.

If no action is taken, Damrill said, the turnpike agency would face a shortfall of $21 million for this year. The authority budgeted on the basis of a projected $212 million in toll revenue, but it’s now estimated that tolls will bring in just under $191 million, he said.            

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