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Ridley in Tuttle: Speaks on Stimulus

Ridley in Tuttle: Speaks on Stimulus

State gets $465 million for roads

Jerry Pittman
The Tuttle Times

July 15, 2009 10:30 am

Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley said recently that the state has started more than 125 highway and bridge projects in the state with federal stimulus money.

Ridley said Oklahoma was doled out $465 million of the $27.5 billion recovery plan pitched by President Barak Obama and approved by Congress.

When then-candidate Obama and opponent John McCain made a stimulus package for highways part of the campaign rhetoric last year, Ridley and his staff begin getting projects from the state’s 8-year road plan “shovel ready” if and when the funding came to fruition.

That preliminary work helped the state start work almost immediately when the check showed up this spring. Work on more than $200 million in projects launched within 16 days.

“We chose fully vetted programs from the 8-year plan that were easy to get going,” Ridley said. “Those projects that got started needed little enviornmental work or right-of-way acquisition.”

He said, to date, work has begun on 126 projects statewide - including 76 on the state system, 48 county road and bridge projects and four projects in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metro areas.

Projects will continue to be started throughout the remainder of the year.

He said the work most noticeable to Grady County residents would be the project on I-44 as you head into Oklahoma City.
He said a key portion of the stimulus plan is transperancy and oversight, ensuring the money is being spent on the most important projects and not those that are “politically-motivated.”

“You ought to know how your money is spent,” Ridley said. “You have the right to ask questions.”

Looming on the horizon is the projected brankruptcy as soon as late August of the federal highway fund.

Ridley said it would be up to Congress to come up with the fix that would avoid project delays.

“If Congress doesn’t act, it would cause many states, including Oklahoma, to have a cash-flow problems,” Ridley said. ’s a serious problem.”

The Highway Trust Fund was in similar shape last year, but Sen. Jim Inhofe was able to get Congress to divert $8 billion from the general fund, moved by the Clinton administration in the late 1990s, back into the federal highway fund.

Ridley called Inhofe’s maneuvering then a “miracle.”

He said it will require something similar to get the funding problem fixed again this year.

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