State Senator Bryce Marlatt (R-Woodward) will appear before the U.S. Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee this week to provide testimony regarding rural transportation funding needs, as well as to discuss legislation he authored this session to find ways to implement innovative funding alternatives for Oklahoma’s state roads and bridges.
Senate Bill 1941, by Marlatt and Rep. Jason Nelson of the House, would create the Innovative Funding for Oklahoma Roads Task Force. The task force would study and evaluate innovations, technologies and new methods being employed nationally and by other states to more adequately and equitably fund road and bridge infrastructure, including both new construction and maintenance. Marlatt’s remarks will also include an overview of the state of rural roads and bridges in the nation and will highlight legislation passed last year by the Oklahoma Legislature to increase the usage of Compressed Natural Gas. In 2009, House Bill 1949 was passed, which is part of an ongoing statewide energy initiative to take advantage of Oklahoma’s abundant natural resources in an effort to harness CNG for mobility of goods, people and services.
“The legislature has made great strides in investing in the state’s transportation infrastructure through several pieces of key legislation over the last four years which are reversing the tide of declining funding for our state roads and bridges,” said Marlatt, vice chair of the Transportation Committee. “However, we still have an $11 billion backlog on deferred road and bridge maintenance that is only growing in cost and size. This is why it’s imperative for us to gather all the key players on this issue and find some new alternatives to our transportation funding problems.”
Marlatt went on to point out that over the last three years, there has been an approximate five percent decline in the state motor fuel tax due to less demand and increased fuel efficiencies in cars. This has resulted in about a $30 million loss in revenues for state roads and bridges.
“In order to continue making progress on restoring and expanding our roads and bridges, we must start addressing the fact that we have revenue sources and user fees that are not and never will be sufficient enough to fully fund the needs we have in this state,” said Marlatt, R-Woodward. “Across the country, there is innovation occurring in design, building and funding of roads and bridges that is being implemented successfully. I believe in this budget climate it's a good time for us to take a look at our needs statewide and what innovative financing mechanisms may make sense for us to explore as a state.”
SB 1941 has passed the Senate and will now head to the House for consideration in Committee.