State Senator Randy Brogdon, Chairman of the Transportation Appropriations sub-committee, said it was time to look at reforming the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA). After the OTA approved toll hikes of 16 percent, Brogdon called for restricting the ability of the OTA to raise tolls--especially at a time when the economy and Oklahoma’s citizens are already suffering.
“Hiking tolls when people are struggling to make ends meet will only make things worse,” Brogdon said. “Oklahoma’s citizens and businesses are facing economic uncertainty. This is not the time to add to their financial burden through a decision that was essentially taxation without representation. Increasing tolls will cause a reduction in travel and commerce in our state at a time when we should be encouraging both.”
“It is time to end OTA’s ability to increase taxes on Oklahomans without the consent of the people or their elected representatives,” Brogdon said.
Turnpike revenues in Oklahoma fell by $500,000 in 2008. Projected revenues for 2009 suggest a further drop in revenue of $7 million. However, Brogdon said the projected $20 million in additional revenue over the next two years to be overly optimistic because it does not take into account decreased traffic from individuals and businesses choosing to save money by avoiding toll roads.
Brogdon believes the toll increase may have unintended consequences, such as forcing truck traffic off toll
roads and onto two lane roads ill-equipped to carry the heavier loads, resulting in increased maintenance costs for local communities and the Department of Transportation.
“I want to stress that I’m not laying all the blame at the members of the Turnpike Authority who voted for these hikes,” Brogdon said, noting the members are asked to make decisions based on what is in the best interest of Oklahoma’s turnpikes.
However, Brogdon added, “They should be making decisions based on what is in the best interest for all Oklahomans in this downturn economy. Economic decisions like this cannot be made in a vacuum. What’s in the best interest of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is not necessarily in the best interest of Oklahoma. I will propose legislation to end this flawed decisions making process.”