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Stillwater Sen. Commentary on Turnpikes

Stillwater Sen. Commentary on Turnpikes

Stillwater News Press

Sen. Jim Halligan (R) Stillwater - Letter from a Legislator

Revenue shortfalls boost tolls on Oklahoma’s turnpikes

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority last month approved a toll increase averaging 16 percent to be implemented into the statewide system this month.

This marks the first increase since January, 2001. Under better circumstances, fees would likely have remained at their previous level, but substantial revenue shortfalls have forced the agency to compensate with toll increases.

For rural turnpikes, the toll increase will bring the per-mile rates for passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles to approximately $.052 per mile and $.182 per mile, respectively.

For urban turnpikes, this increase will bring the per mile rates for passenger vehicles and commercial vehicles to approximately $.086 per mile and $.284 per mile, respectively. These rates are still approximately 30 percent below the national average.

Typically, toll rates are determined on a rate-per-mile basis. Since they cost substantially more to construct and maintain, urban facilities’ rates per mile are higher than those for rural facilities.

While no one is enthusiastic about increasing tolls in the midst of an economic downturn, the increases are necessary both for routine turnpike operations and the preservation of Oklahoma’s good credit rating.

Despite the increases, Oklahoma’s turnpikes remain a bargain, with rates ranking well below the national average for toll roads.

With nearly 70,000 square miles of land and many vast expanses of open prairie and forest, ours is a state with great infrastructural demands. With a limited tax base, turnpikes have provided the state a way to build roads to meet transportation demands.

Currently, the Oklahoma Turnpike System consists of two urban and eight rural turnpikes with a total of 606 miles. If the system was to be built today, it would cost over $10 billion.

The Turnpike Authority receives no state appropriations, and turnpike revenues are used to pay all operating and maintenance costs while paying off the bonds issued to finance their construction.

Additionally, nearly half of Oklahoma’s total toll income is derived from out-of state automobiles or trucks.

With respect to our state’s unique transportation needs, turnpikes have been a wise public policy choice. These increases were necessary both for the basic maintenance needs of Oklahoma’s turnpike and for continuing repairs to our turnpikes.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and concerns regarding state government. You may contact my office at 405-521-5572 or halligan@oksenate.gov.



Sen. Jim Halligan

Stillwater

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