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Tulsa World: ODOT approves 48 road projects

Tulsa World: ODOT approves 48 road projects

This article first appeared in the Tulsa World

Chart of 48 Projects Selected

by: GAVIN OFF World Data Editor
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
3/31/2009 5:02:45 AM

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Department of Transportation approved the first round of federal stimulus projects Monday by giving the go-ahead to 48 projects totaling about $230 million.

An additional 100 to 150 projects are set to be approved in April and May.

In all, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will allow ODOT to spend about $464 million on Oklahoma highways and bridges.

Projects approved Monday stretch from Arkansas to the Panhandle and include mostly bridge reconstruction and pavement rehabilitation and preservation.

Monday's package includes one project slated for Tulsa County: repairing two Oklahoma 151 bridges near the Keystone dam. One bridge crosses over Oklahoma 51 and a second crosses a nearby railroad.

ODOT Director Gary Ridley said other Tulsa County projects would likely follow, including rehabilitating 44 bridges along the north and west legs of the Inner Dispersal Loop.

That project is estimated to cost about $66 million. In addition, INCOG, a regional planning organization, will receive about $22.5 million to spend on road projects of its own.

Ridley said he expects contractors to begin work on the projects in coming weeks. And he said he hopes the projects will jump-start the economy, as contractors hire employees and buy equipment and materials.

"It will create additional jobs," he said. "It will save jobs. You have jobs associated with the construction industry that aren't really apparent."

Ridley said everyone from cement kilns to tire manufacturers could see a boost.

Three projects totaling about $12 million were awarded Monday to Haskell Lemon Construction Co. of Oklahoma City. Bob Lemon, the company's vice president, said the added work has already allowed it to hire 10 more workers. The company hopes to hire an additional 15 employees, he said.

The stimulus work should turn an OK year for business into a good year, he said.

State Auditor and Inspector Steve Burrage, meanwhile, promised commissioners that his office will ensure that all stimulus money is spent properly. Gov. Brad Henry assigned the watchdog role to Burrage, who advised ODOT to carefully track the money it spends.

"Know where you got the money," he said. "Know where you spent it. Know why, and document it, document it, document it."

Ridley said any changes or adjustments to projects will be paid with separate funds to ensure that stimulus money is spent only for what it was originally awarded.

After all the projects are awarded, Ridley said, the federal stimulus money will rebuild or repair more than 100 bridges in Oklahoma. Monday's first round of projects largely target heavily traveled roads, with six projects slated for Interstate 40.

Ridley said he hoped the work will help turn Oklahoma from a state with some of the worst roads into a state with some of the best roads.

"Just the casual observer will say, 'My goodness, something needs to happen here,'" Ridley said. "I think when we get all done people will step back and say 'Wow.' "

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