Transportation Plans Get the Green Light to Improve Oklahoma’s Highways, Bridges and County Roads
In Tulsa, an estimated $80 million widening and improvement project for the I-44 corridor between the Arkansas River and Union Ave. has been added to the updated 8-Year Construction Plan by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. The nearly $6.5 billion plan contains 1,386 total projects for Oklahoma’s highways in Federal Fiscal Years 2019-2026.
Key transportation plans are now on track to improve Oklahoma’s highway and county road systems over the next several years. On Sept. 10, the Oklahoma Transportation Commission approved updated infrastructure plans for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and for the off-system roads and bridges maintained by counties.
The largest of these plans is ODOT’s Eight-Year Construction Work Plan for Federal Fiscal Year 2019-2026, which prioritizes critically needed highway projects and is updated each year based on available state and federal funding projections. This latest approved version contains nearly $6.5 billion in planned work on state bridges and highways for the next eight years.
The Eight-Year Plan had suffered an unprecedented set-back one year ago when ODOT was forced to delay and even remove projects due to the impact of $840 million in cumulative state funding reductions in the past seven years. However, recent actions by the Legislature to stabilize funding along with careful balancing by ODOT have allowed this latest version while keeping its goal of having existing structurally deficient highway bridges to less than 1 percent by the end of the decade and also allowing for a new focus on pavement projects.
“It’s very exciting to be in the position of delivering on the promise of getting our highway bridges in a manageable condition after decades of having some of the worst bridges in the nation,” Secretary of Transportation and ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said. “Now that state funding has stabilized and the plan has been rebalanced, we’re focusing on the next priorities which are major highway pavement improvement projects involving mobility issues and further safety improvements that are desperately needed statewide.”
Those projects include improving pavement conditions, adding shoulders to two-lane highways and addressing growing urban highway congestion. Even as the state nears its decade-old goal to address all remaining structurally deficient highway bridges by 2020, ODOT estimates that 90 bridges will still have to be replaced or rehabilitated each year just to keep up with the aging infrastructure system in an effort to sustain progress.
The FFY 2019-2026 Eight-year Construction Work Plan for ODOT includes:
•Nearly $6.5 billion in federal, state and local transportation funding
•1,386 total projects
•686 highway bridge replacements or major rehabilitations
•More than 720 miles of added shoulders or other improvements to two-lane highways (nearly 25 more miles than the previous plan)
•152 miles of interstate pavement improvements
•Nearly $400 million in projects to address urban highway congestion
Examples of major projects new to this latest version of the Eight-year Construction Work Plan include:
•An estimated $80 million widening and improvement project on I-44 in Tulsa from the Arkansas River west to Union Ave. in Tulsa. This project is being made possible thanks to a recent $45 million federal Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant and is currently scheduled for FFY 2021 bid.
•An estimated $3 million modification of I-35 at the John Kilpatrick Turnpike in Oklahoma City to add another north and southbound lane for through traffic, scheduled for a bid in FFY 2026.
•All phases of the US-81 realignment around Chickasha to be programmed.
•An estimated $20 million reconstruction of US-70 in Choctaw County between SH-209 and the McCurtain County line, scheduled for a bid in FFY 2026.
The $473 million ODOT Asset Preservation Plan for State Fiscal Years 2019-2022 was also approved by the Oklahoma Transportation Commission on Monday. This is a companion piece to the Eight-Year Construction Work Plan and focuses on preventative maintenance projects designed to extend the life of highway infrastructure. The plan contains nearly 400 projects addressing 150 bridges and more than 1,220 miles of pavement. There are also 44 projects to improve highways to Americans with Disabilities Act standards with curb ramps, traffic signal push buttons for pedestrians, crosswalks and sidewalks.
Also approved was the County Improvements of Roads and Bridges Construction Work Plan for State Fiscal Years 2019-2023. This plan allows counties to develop and schedule projects to improve roads and bridges on its system, and is the one county program which ODOT has oversight responsibility for construction contracts. While the previous year’s plan was estimated at $926 million and contained nearly 400 local bridge projects and improvements to more than 800 miles of county roads, cumulative legislative funding reductions have impacted this latest version. The latest plan is now estimated at $877 million and will address 344 local bridges and 833 miles of county roads during the next five years.
“The County Commissioners and their partners have done tremendous work to rebalance their plan to reflect the latest amounts of available funding for the CIRB program,” Patterson said. “Despite the reductions, they’ve been able to program a similar number of projects to the previous plan and also keep their bridge improvements in focus.”
Since being first implemented in its current format in 2003, ODOT’s Eight-year Plan has focused on addressing the state’s greatest transportation needs in a transparent, accountable and businesslike manner without political influence. These infrastructure improvements have been linked directly to economic growth. The project selection process is very rigorous as transportation commissioners work with ODOT’s field division engineers and staff to identify the most critical highway and bridge projects and create a balanced statewide plan with anticipated federal and state funding. Each year, the plan is updated to reflect project completions, adjustments in projected revenue and changes in construction costs. As the previous fiscal year comes off the plan, another year is added based on forecasting of available funding. Funding comes from a state income tax allocation and state motor fuel tax allocation, as well as the federal Highway Trust Fund.
All plans will be available for viewing on the ODOT website, www.odot.org. Click on the “ODOT Publications” link under the “What’s New” icon.