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Toll increases go into effect Tuesday

Toll increases go into effect Tuesday

 

The Tulsa World
by: BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Monday, August 03, 2009
8/3/2009 7:07:54 PM

OKLAHOMA CITY – Drivers on Oklahoma turnpikes will see signs of change Tuesday, when a toll increase goes into effect.

The increase averaged 16 percent, said Tim Stewart, Oklahoma Turnpike Authority deputy director and chief operating officer. Stewart said the toll increase was necessary to offset a drop in revenue from commercial vehicles caused by the national recession.

“We are at a crossroads for a number of commercial shipments, which have steadily been declining since mid-2007,” he said, characterizing the decline as “excessive.”

Increases will vary by turnpike and destination and some rates will not increase, Stewart said. A passenger car paying cash to travel to Oklahoma City from Tulsa will pay $4 instead of $3.50.

Shortly after midnight Tuesday, OTA workers were expected to begin unveiling signs posting the new cash rates.

Jack Damrill, OTA spokesman, said crews are replacing 793 panels on 178 signs. “They started this morning 7 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. They will continue all afternoon long to finish out the installation of the panels.”

The signs were then covered with blue tarps, which were to be removed when the toll rate took effect, Damrill said.

PikePass users can obtain the new toll rates from the OTA Website, Stewart said.

The toll increase is the eighth since the first turnpike was opened in 1953, Stewart said.

The OTA has about $94 million in debt, $62 million in operating costs and $34 million which pays for highway rehabilitation or replacing bridges, he said. The rate increase is expected to generate about $20 million, Stewart said.

The OTA last month voted to increase the tolls.

Some people have contacted the OTA asking that the toll increase be delayed until the economy improves, Stewart said.

“There have been others, I don’t want to call it supportive, but who recognize the need,” Stewart said.

Paul Sund, a spokesman for Gov. Brad Henry said the governor ``certainly doesn’t relish the idea of increasing tolls, particularly in an economic downturn, but at the same time, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority made a very compelling case that if revenues are not raised, Oklahoma’s bond rating and turnpike system will suffer, and that’s not good for the state or the motorists and businesses that rely on the turnpikes to get from place to place.’’

Sund said the hike ``won’t be popular with anyone, including the governor, but it may be a necessary evil to maintain the state’s good credit rating and repair turnpike roads and bridges.’’



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