TRUST Transportation Briefing - April 6, 2021
A COMMITMENT TO
The Journal Record
By: Janice Francis-Smith
April 6, 2021
OKLAHOMA CITY – One hundred years have passed since the state of Oklahoma implemented its first fuel tax in 1921, Neal McCaleb, president of Transportation Revenues Used Strictly for Transportation, or TRUST, said at an event held at the Oklahoma Capitol on Tuesday.
The state is still looking for ways to ensure its transportation infrastructure gets the funding it needs.
With the support of Gov. Kevin Stitt and leaders of the Oklahoma Legislature, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation just might get the funding it needs this year.
“I think it’s our most important asset in our state,” Stitt told members of TRUST, a coalition of businesses, state entities, engineers and others with an interest in maintaining Oklahoma’s $70 billion transportation infrastructure.
“It literally is the backbone of our economy, and that’s why I’m proposing that we fully fund the roads fund for Fiscal Year 2022,” Stitt said.
His executive budget would restore all fuel tax appropriations to the state transportation fund, Stitt said.
“Improving infrastructure creates an environment that grows and attracts businesses,” Stitt said. Oklahoma’s highways and roads have spurred the creation of “world-class commercial corridors” and provide Oklahomans with an average commute time of 15 minutes – two assets that help Oklahoma compete for businesses with Texas, where the average commute in the Dallas/Fort Worth area is around 45 minutes.
State Rep. Todd Russ, R-Cordell, chairman of the appropriations and budget committee for transportation in the state House of Representatives, noted that last year the Legislature used a $200 million bond to pay for transportation needs. In the past, the Legislature has used bonds for transportation but then later failed to provide the funds to help the agency make the bond payments.
“This year we think we’ll have the actual cash to do that,” Russ said. “And at the end of the day we’re going to make your bond payments.”
“We’re very optimistic this year,” said Terri Angier, interagency liaison and chief of media and public relations for ODOT. TRUST, as a coalition of many partners working with the same aim, has been a strong advocate for transportation needs for the last 15 years, she said.
The answers to how to properly fund transportation are changing with the times, said McCaleb. With the advent of electric cars, which contribute far less in fuel taxes, lawmakers are studying the best way for road users to equitably share the cost of maintaining the state’s roads.
View the article here: JournalRecord.com
Transportation Revenues Used Strictly for Transportation Executive Director Jami Longacre and President Neal McCaleb spoke with lawmakers on Tuesday about the Legislature’s plan to fully fund the Oklahoma Department of Transportation this year. (Photo by Janice Francis-Smith)