How did the Driving Forward initiative come about?
The Driving Forward transportation projects came about as a result of the need for greater public safety on Oklahoma’s roadways. Traffic, population growth and collision studies showed a need for expansion, improvement and repair of the transportation system as it stands today.
The Driving Forward initiative has support from the cities of Oklahoma City, Mustang, Choctaw, Harrah, Oklahoma County, the Eastern Oklahoma County Partnership, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Choctaw Chamber and local businesses and community members. These organizations and many more have supported and/or have been involved in the planning of this project over the last two to five years.
Surveys have already begun on these projects to develop detailed studies and topographical maps. The OTA plans to begin construction on these projects in late 2016 and look to complete 90% of turnpike construction, renovation and repairs by 2019.
The project will be fully paid for by bonds and will not affect any part of the state budgeting process. Revenue will not be diverted from other state priorities. Users of the turnpike system pay for these projects. Revenues from tolls, investments, and concession leases pay all operating and maintenance costs for the turnpikes and pay off the bonds issued to finance their construction. State-maintained roads receive motor fuel tax money generated by the turnpikes. Since 1992, the Authority has received, and immediately remitted to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation over $365 million.
Turnpikes provide a way to finance, build and use roads now and pay for them as we use them. The construction of turnpikes provides infrastructure that might not be possible otherwise. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) at the time did not have the available funds to construct and maintain such roads. In the past fifty years, ODOT has constructed only 162 miles of partial control, limited access interstate type roads, excluding the federally funded interstate system. In that same time, the OTA has been able to construct 606 miles of rural and urban high performance, limited access highways with greater safety and convenience for the Oklahoma road user. If tolls were removed from current roads, an additional $100 million annually would be needed for ODOT to complete the routine maintenance and capital rehabilitation currently performed on the Turnpike System. In addition, the state would have to fund $13 million annually for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol currently patrolling the turnpikes.
Why do we need a turnpike in eastern Oklahoma County?
Traffic, growth and public safety. Between 2005 and 2015, there have been 6,649 collisions take place on I-35 between I-240 and the Ft. Smith Junction, resulting in 33 fatalities. During that same time period in the rural corridor between I-40 to I-44 and Luther Road to Henney Road, there have been 1,572 collisions resulting in 15 fatalities. The data from ODOT’s collision studies demonstrate a clear need for greater public safety.
The OTA is an instrumentality of the State created by the state legislature, by statute in 1947 for the purpose of constructing, operating and maintaining the Turner Turnpike. In 1954, the original purpose was statutorily redefined to allow construction of additional turnpikes, and changes were made in the Authority’s membership to include a representative from each of Oklahoma’s congressional districts. The OTA’s governing body (the Authority) consists of the Governor (ex-officio) and six members, appointed by the Governor and approved by the State Senate, serving an eight-year uncompensated term.
The OTA is involved in the communities it operates in, working with many organizations including Keep Oklahoma Beautiful, United Way of Oklahoma, Color Oklahoma, Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department and many more. The OTA was awarded the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association’s President Award in 2014 for the Authority’s quick and efficient response to the 2013 Moore tornados. The OTA also recieved the 2015 State Agency Partnership Award from Keep America Beautiful for it’s work on improving Oklahoma’s communities and environment.
PIKEPASS is the Electronic Toll Collection System developed and implemented for the Oklahoma Turnpike System. PIKEPASS provides totally automated, free-flow travel on all Oklahoma Turnpikes at highway speeds, eliminating the need for motorists to stop and pay tolls. There are currently more than 1.5 million active PIKEPASSes in service. Recently, OTA partnered with the Kansas Turnpike Authority and the North Texas Tollway Authority to allow for the use of PIKEPASS on their turnpikes.
When was the Turner Turnpike built and why is it not free?
The Turner Turnpike was authorized in 1947 and opened to traffic in 1953. The people of Oklahoma voted in 1954 to “cross-pledge” the turnpike system. By this action they voted to commit the tolls collected on all turnpikes to pay the debt service, maintenance and expansion for the turnpike system, not each individual road.