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State leaders warn bridge inspections show critical funding needs

State leaders warn bridge inspections show critical funding needs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 8, 2010
CONTACT: Crystal Drwenski
Cdrwenski@cox.net or 405.410.7668


STATE LEADERS WARN BRIDGE INSPECTIONS SHOW CRITICAL FUNDING NEEDS

State’s truss bridge inspections show funding is critical to safety. Leaders warn State Question 744 will gut critical bridge funding.

OKLAHOMA CITY (July 8) - The design review of 95 state truss bridges – similar in structure to the I-35 Minnesota bridge that collapsed in 2007 killing 13 people — points to tangible consequences of reduced funding for Oklahoma’s roads and bridges that would likely ensue should State Question 744 pass, said a former Oklahoma governor, state elected leaders and transportation advocates today.

Former Oklahoma governor, Frank Keating, who serves as co-chairman of the T.R.U.S.T. Road and Bridge Coalition said, “We have hundreds of bridges across this state that were built in the 1930s or 40s that can’t support the weight of today’s traffic or are too narrow. If SQ 744 passes, funding to repair Oklahoma’s most dangerous roads and bridges, like these truss bridges, will be wiped out.”

This week, at a state transportation commission meeting, Secretary Gary Ridley responded to a question from the commission, which inquired what the financial impact would be to road and bridge funding should SQ 744 pass. Ridley’s comments were made after a briefing on the status of bridges being inspected following the Federal Highway Administration’s call for a review of all bridges nationally that have similar structural features to the Minnesota bridge.

Incoming speaker of the house, Kris Steele (R-Shawnee) said, “Last year, house fiscal staff estimated we would have to cut road and bridge funding by $42 million in the first year SQ 744 is implemented. Over the life of our state’s eight-year construction work plan, we would lose about $336 million in funding for these critically needed repairs. SQ 744 is a reckless mandate for increased government spending with no accountability or oversight.”

At a state house budget committee hearing last fall, multiple state agencies testified about the impact of a 20 percent funding cut to their services. The cuts would likely be needed to pay for the estimated $1 billion increase in spending that would be required under SQ 744.

SQ 744 is a constitutionally mandated government spending increase that requires the state to spend at minimum the six-state regional average on per-pupil spending. The measure contains no oversight or reforms of how these funds would be spent. Additionally, the blank check provided by SQ 744 does not identify a funding mechanism to pay for the increased spending. Therefore state lawmakers would likely have to look at income or sales-tax increases, possibly as high as 40 percent, or budget reductions in other agencies as high as 20 percent across-the-board.

State Senator Brian Bingman (R-Sapulpa), who serves as vice-chairman of the Appropriations Sub-Committee on General Government and Transportation said, “The legislature has labored for the last four years to prioritize and increase road funding. As a result, we have seen the largest number of bridges being repaired and replaced in state history. If SQ 744 passes, Oklahoma taxpayers can expect unsafe infrastructure to rise and progress we’ve made to be lost.”

At Monday’s commission meeting, Sec. Ridley stated 60 truss bridges on the state’s highway system are scheduled for replacement.

T.R.U.S.T. (Transportation Revenues Used Strictly for Transportation) is a transportation advocacy group that engages in ongoing public relations efforts, grassroots and media campaigns that advocate policy goals, and educate elected officials and the public on the importance of transportation funding. T.R.U.S.T. also is a part of the One Oklahoma Coalition, the opposition campaign to SQ 744. To learn more visit RestoreTRUST.org and NoSQ744.com.

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