Lawton_If you think Lawton's roads are bad now, they're probably going to get a whole lot worse. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) may not have the money to repair them since reports of a projected shortfall in the Federal Highway Trust Fund were released. If there isn't enough money in the fund, Oklahoma will not get its share of the pie - estimated at $83 million. That loss means that more than 30 state highway projects will not happen. Those pot holes you're driving over are going to get bigger and bumpier.
Road and highway quality and safety could go downhill fast. ODOT officials say the roads and highways have been neglected for too long, and the recent rains and flooding have made them worse. Without federal funding, roads that usually would be considered unsafe will have to make do. Priority projects such as highway reconstruction will trump smaller, local, road repair.
ODOT Engineer Bob Rose is dubious about the trust fund. "There seems to be a real problem with the money that's accumulating in the highway trust fund," he said. With rising fuel prices, drivers are spending less on gasoline, which means less money for the highway trust fund. "The money that accrues in the fund is primarily based on fuel taxes," Rose said.
Duncan Mayor Gene Brown says that without federal funding, the addition of ramps to Beech Road and reconstruction to Elk Road, scheduled to begin this month, will come to a screeching halt. "The cost and the price of concrete and asphalt have gone up so much it takes a lot of money to get it done," said Brown. Rose says that bridge construction at I-44 will need to wrap up quickly. "Right now we're at the point of no return, with respect to replacement of the south bound bridge structure," he said. "The bridge surface is torn off, so we've got to complete that project. However, the project will only be half complete.
ODOT had planned to repair the north bridge on I-44. It was built in the 1960s and had a projected life span of 75 years. It doesn't look like it's going to make it. ODOT says the lack of infrastructure repairs will raise more that safety concerns - it will also raise your car repair bill. Oklahomans spend millions of dollars per year replacing tires and shocks due to all of the bumpy rides.
However, ODOT says there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. The nearly $83 billion in state transportation projects could move forward if President Bush approves an $8 billion infusion into the Federal Highway Trust Fund. The House is expected to vote on the plan this week.
Count on 7News to keep you updated.
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