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State to slash millions in road projects after Congress fails to extend measure

State to slash millions in road projects after Congress fails to extend measure

by: JIM MYERS World Washingon Bureau
Thursday, October 01, 2009

WASHINGTON – A double-whammy from the federal government will force Oklahoma next month to slash a $53.5 million letting on road projects to $6.2 million, according to figures provided Thursday by state Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley.

"We are not doing very well right now," Ridley said.

He released those figures after Congress allowed a one-month extension of current transportation programs to kick in along with cancellation of budget authority provided states in a massive transportation bill several years ago.

Called a rescission, that cancellation is expected to have a $40 million immediate impact on Oklahoma's road program, and that impact eventually could climb to $135 million.

Moreover, the state's flow of federal funds also was dealt a blow by the 30-day extension of current transportation law.

Ridley explained the state must meet its debt obligation on bonds.

"That has to come off the top," he said.

"As you can see, that doesn't leave us any federal funds for the November letting." Ridley said the November list essentially will be limited to state-funded projects.

He repeated an earlier concern that the state was urged to use to stimulus dollars to speed up certain projects to create jobs only to have projects delayed later.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., a key player on transportation issues in Congress, had worked into the evening Wednesday to try to come up with a solution.

"There is plenty of blame to go around tonight, but the focus should be on the fact that Congress failed, and as a result, thousands of American jobs are now in doubt," Inhofe said.

"This is simply inexcusable."

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