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Stimulus to help offset expected drop in highway fund support

Stimulus to help offset expected drop in highway fund support

Journal Record: Stimulus to help offset expected drop in highway fund support

March 4, 2009

OKLAHOMA CITY – Receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in stimulus money is a good thing – but it’s not as great as it sounds, said Gary Ridley, director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

“Oklahoma is taking advantage of every nickel we can out of the stimulus package,” said Ridley.

The first projects paid for completely or partially with money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by Congress last month will be sent out for bid in March, totaling $330 million.

Ridley said the federal government stipulated that at least half of the funds must be obligated within the next 120 days.

Nearly 50 projects will be funded with stimulus money, including rehabilitation for about 40 bridges, improvements to Interstate 244 in Tulsa, and road improvements in western Oklahoma City and Canadian County.

While the money is a welcome addition to this year’s budget, Ridley said the funds help to offset losses from the federal highway fund. ODOT officials expect support from the fund to drop by $480 million over the next eight years.

Highway dollars based on fuel taxes are declining as vehicles become more fuel-efficient and because of declining activity attributed to the economic downturn. Turnpike figures show truck traffic is down as much as 12 percent in the last few months, said Ridley.

The cost of road maintenance will soon eclipse the amount of money collected in fuel taxes, said Ridley.

“We’re going to have to come up with another means of how we fund transportation in the future,” he said

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