The Oklahoma Department of Transportation will have to absorb a spending cut of more than $150 million as a result of the Legislature’s budget actions, but ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said that cut is about $100 million less than lawmakers had initially proposed.
Legislators tapped the ODOT funding to help close a projected $878 million deficit in the state’s overall budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Patterson told the state Transportation Commission June 5 that his department had been drawing up plans to make project cuts for the higher level, which he said “would have stopped, suspended construction activities on several ongoing projects. Fortunately, we don’t find ourselves in that position.”
But Patterson said the remaining cuts will have an impact on the department’s eight-year plan for transportation projects, and indicated that will mean delaying some planned projects. “Every dollar taken from this agency affects the eight-year plan,” he said. “Every dollar.”
He also said that late in the legislative session he learned lawmakers planned to cut $1 million from ODOT’s subsidy to the Heartland Flyer passenger rail service. However, Patterson said that would have meant the trains would not have been able to maintain daily service, and the Legislature restored that funding.
In addition, lawmakers had planned to reduce ODOT’s transit funding by $1 million. However, he said, “that’s the million dollars that helps our rural public transit operators match federal funds, and I didn’t want any federal dollars to be lost. So I appreciate the Legislature changing that in the final hours” of the session.
The AP reported that lawmakers shifted $100 million from ODOT’s construction program, $53 million from a maintenance and operations fund, plus $3 million from a weigh station revolving account.
In addition, the AP said, lawmakers took $50 million from an ODOT-administered fund for county road and bridge improvements.