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Road warriors

Road warriors


by: Tulsa World's Editorial Writers
Saturday, November 21, 2009
11/21/2009 4:57:18 AM

Even those Americans who don't give a hoot about politics have to wonder what Congress has in mind with this exasperating month-to-month highway funding scenario.

What are our representatives thinking? Or maybe a better question is: Are they thinking?

Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley probably has had more sleepless nights in the last few months than he has had in his entire life. He now has to worry that the state is going to miss an entire construction season because of Congress' failure to ensure an adequate highway funding stream for the coming year.

Ridley was in Washington a few days ago, pleading with Oklahoma's delegation to do something about the highway funding impasse.

The issue is complex, but in simple terms, what's going on is Congress is funding highway construction on a month-to-month basis rather than passing a longer extension of the highway funding program that would not only make planning and scheduling easier for states, but also provide them with more money.

Under the month-to-month approach, Oklahoma will get $15 million a month less than would have been expected under the expired funding formula.

Ridley made an obvious point to federal leaders that one would hope wouldn't even have to be made: that it is counterproductive to adopt a stimulus program to create jobs and improve infrastructure and at the same time stymie the traditional highway funding program — the granddaddy of job creation and infrastructure improvement.

It comes as no surprise that U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is one of the roadblocks to a longer extension. Coburn has conceded that the current stopgap funding approach creates problems for Oklahoma, but he still favors that approach as a means of pushing fiscal discipline.

So in other words, representing the state's interests is not as important to him as pushing his pet philosophy.

Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe, on the other hand, sees the value of funding highways in Oklahoma and continues to push for a six-month funding extension.

"As Gary pointed out again," Inhofe said, "the costs of congressional inaction are high."

Indeed they are. Let's hope the more rational minds among Congress' ranks prevail soon, before Oklahoma's transportation infrastructure and economy deteriorate to even more serious levels.

Associate Images:


Road construction on the westbound lanes of I-244 is seen looking east between Memorial Drive and U.S. 169 in June. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World file

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