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Roads, bridges a catch-up game

Roads, bridges a catch-up game

The Muskogee Phoenix - EDITORIAL

September 16, 2009 04:12 pm

— We appreciate what the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is doing to repair the state’s roads and bridges.

Earlier this month, the department unveiled this year’s eight-year plan that includes the repair or replacement of about 563 bridges, the upgrade of more than 446 miles of two-lane highways and their shoulders, the addition of 62 miles of median barriers and $1.9 billion in upgrades to major highways.

The plan is a monumental undertaking, and necessary given the condition of Oklahoma’s roads and bridges. According to 2008 reports, the state had about 5,680 structurally deficient bridges, and the state was far behind in upgrading and maintaining state roads and highways.

So even with federal stimulus funds and extra state funds added to the annual transportation funds the state receives, it’s likely the state will run a backlog for years and years.

The possibility also exists that we will never be able to keep up financially with the transportation infrastructure we have.

Blaming your favorite gremlin — a stingy Legislature and electorate, over-expansion of highways, uncontrolled development, poor planning in the past — or all of them, doesn’t repair our roads. However, digging ourselves out of this hole will require recognizing mistakes of the past.

Oklahoma needs to be creative in looking to the future in transportation. We need to look for additional ways to transport people and materials to relieve highways and roads of congestion and heavy commercial traffic.

We need to look to more cost-effective materials in road and bridge construction and encourage state universities to be a part of developing new materials and designs. And of course, we need to consider adequate funding in the future.

Otherwise, for Oklahoma the issue of transportation will always be a game of catch-up.

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