A newly appointed interim committee will begin its study of the Oklahoma turnpike system with a thorough examination of Governor Keating's toll road expansion program, namely the answers to a number of questions posed by the Executive and Legislative Bond Oversight Commissions at a meeting last month.
"Before we can make any decisions about the future of our turnpike system, we need to get the questions about Governor Keating's toll road program answered," said Senator Bruce Price, who requested the interim study. "Those answers will tell us a lot about the OTA's ability to manage the toll road system and the millions of dollars it generates each year."
Last month, members of the Executive and Legislative Bond Oversight Commissions requested additional information about the Governor's turnpike expansion effort, including a series of questions about the financial feasibility of such a project. Governor Keating estimated a 10 percent statewide toll increase would fund a $525 million urban turnpike construction project, but several members questioned the accuracy of that projection, including Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin.
"If we don't get those questions answered, we'll never find out whether or not the OTA's traffic counts and cost estimates were accurate. If they weren't accurate, we need to know why and what the impact might be on our existing toll roads," said Senator Price.
The bond oversight commissions gave the OTA 60 days to respond to questions about the Governor's turnpike program. The OTA board will consider the request at its regular meeting tomorrow.
"I'm confident the OTA will answer the questions because so many people are asking them," said Senator Price.
"Our lieutenant governor had questions, Republican legislators had questions, Democratic legislators had questions and most importantly, the people of Oklahoma had questions. We all deserve answers."
In a related development today, Senate President Pro Tempore Stratton Taylor appointed a Senate interim committee to study the Oklahoma turnpike system. Senator Keith Leftwich will chair the special panel. Senator Price, who requested the study, will serve as vice-chairman.
Although no formal agenda has been drafted, the committee is tentatively planning to hold public hearings on the turnpike system, in addition to fact-finding meetings.
"We really want to hear from the people on this issue. I think they've been left out of the loop on new toll roads and it's about time somebody listened to them. This interim study will provide a public forum and allow us to gather information about our existing turnpike system," said Senator Price.
"I think everyone would like to see us pay off our turnpike debt and pull the toll gates down some day. This study is the first step in that direction."
Senate Interim Study Committee on the Oklahoma Turnpike System.
Sen. Keith Leftwich, Chairman
Sen. Bruce Price, Vice-chairman
Sen. Mark Snyder
Sen. Dave Herbert
Sen. Bill Gustafson
Sen. Cal Hobson
Sen. Brad Henry