As Donald Trump has begun to roll out his plan for improving America’s infrastructure with a $1 trillion overhaul of the nation’s roads and bridges this week, on May 26, 2017, the Oklahoma State Legislature announced plans to divert over $156 million dollars earmarked for agency road and bridge funding to help with an $858 million budget deficit for FY 2018. $100 million from the ROADS Fund, $53.6 million from the State Transportation Fund, and $3 million from the Weigh Station Improvement Fund. Additionally, the County Roads and Bridges Fund was reduced by $50 million.
Cody Boyd from the Public Relations Division of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation told the Progressive Army that the move was made independent of any federal plans as they are unaware of how many, if any, funds would be made available to the state. There are still concerns about having enough funds to match federal funds, which is a requirement in order to receive federal funds for state projects.
Progressive Army also contacted local officials in Lawton, OK to see how that reallocation would affect one small but growing town in Oklahoma. City manager Jerry Ihler put us in contact with George E. Hennessee, P.E., City Engineer. Mr. Hennessee stated that the biggest impact would be to the Department’s eight-year plan where some projects may be pushed further out.
The eight-year program provides financing for the ‘on-system’ roadways (roadways designated on the state highway system) for numbered highways like SH-7, I-44, or US-62. But little impact should be felt by ongoing projects, with some possible delays due to departmental personnel shifts. The eight-year program is funded separately from the local government program and since the city doesn’t hold funds for this type of situation they do operate with a contingency plan that varies from 15% to 20% based on the project.
Because of the planning and forethought of city officials, they are not expecting any significant impact on ongoing projects.
We can only hope that the President’s infrastructure plan will add to the funds for the state of Oklahoma, as well as other states, so that no projects for our deteriorating roadways have to be delayed.