Tuesday, June 19, 2007

HD-31 Transportation Update

One of the foremost challenges facing those who live in Logan and Oklahoma Counties is that of transportation. Due to recent growth in our area, tremendous demands are being placed on our road infrastructure.

An important concern of local voters is to reverse the way state government diverts millions of dollars of motor vehicle taxes (monies we pay when we register our vehicles) into general government spending instead of transportation funding.

Because of these concerns and the needs faced by our district, I requested the Speaker of the House to appoint me to the House Transportation Committee. Serving as a member of the committee allows me to work closely with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, specialize in the area of transportation policy and support the current House leadership with their goal of ensuring that the money which should be used for paving roads is indeed used for that purpose.

Currently, over 40% of the money generated from vehicle registration fees is diverted for non-transportation purposes. However, beginning in July 2007, county roads will be eligible to receive an additional 5% of motor vehicle taxes. This should amount to around $28 million in new funding. In 2008, counties roads will receive 10% of motor vehicle taxes and then 15% beginning in the summer of 2009. This is money that was previously used for non-transportation purposes. Once fully implemented, county road projects will receive about $85 million per year in new revenue as a result of recent funding reforms.

State funding for all roads and bridges has nearly doubled since 2005, increasing from about $205 million per year to $395 million this year.

Just a few years ago, state road funding averaged around $200 million per year with approximately $70 million going to bond payments. That left relatively little cash for actual road maintenance. It is obvious that past legislatures raided what should have been transportation funds and used the money for other purposes, such as legislative pork projects.

One area where the impact of this new funding will be felt is in South Logan County, where County Commissioner Mark Sharpton has received approval for over 3.6 million dollars to be used for paving five miles of Coltrane Road from Waterloo to Seward. This improvement will be the first time in many years that a major south county section line road will be upgraded from dirt to pavement. The potential economic impact to the area should be substantial.

In North Logan County, County Commissioner Monty Piercy won approval from the Department of Transportation for using the same funding method to expend $950,000 to build a new county bridge over Skeleton Creek. And, in Guthrie, the Department of Transportation is expected to expend about 5 millon dollars to replace the Guthrie viaduct in the next several years.

I believe this new funding should just be the first step in the effort to ensure that all the money from motor taxes is applied to roads. Senator Patrick Anderson and I have put together a strategy to advocate for both a House and a Senate bill to see that even more of the motor tax money currently used for non-transportation related purposes is applied to improving transportation in growth areas such as Logan County. The implementation of this policy would allow ODOT to oversee the upgrading of section line roads in counties which experience rapid growth.

In the future I will continue to support these and other transportation reforms. I look forward to providing additional updates with specific information on the transportation challenges and improvements in Logan and Oklahoma counties. I receive a number of calls from constituents with transportation related concerns and am always happy to help as I can. You can reach me at 557-7350 or www.HouseDistrict31.com.

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