In 1956, President Eisenhower signed into law the Federal Aid Highway Act, a bill that constructed the 47,856 miles of interstate highway we know and use today.
Oklahoma continues to be a major beneficiary of this system, with interstate travel and commerce playing an important role in our economy. As the state’s taxpayers well know, it is an expensive endeavor to maintain that transportation system and keep its users safe.
There has been discussion recently of a need and opportunity to improve our current transportation system to get ahead of growth in the state. Providing a suitable and safe transportation system to Oklahoma’s citizens means more than maintaining the status quo, it means building out our system before we run into overwhelming congestion and accident-prone roadways. A strategic plan like the governor’s Driving Forward initiative is what our system needs.
The plan calls for improvements to existing turnpikes and construction of new routes, including two roadways that will help to create a loop around the Oklahoma City area. Much has been made of the routes’ effect on safer travel and relief of traffic congestion on a local level, but we must also look at the plan’s effect on our connection to the national transportation system. These routes provide more efficient travel for through-state traffic in both directions, rather than continuing to direct heavy through-traffic into our metro areas.
In particular, the eastern Oklahoma County turnpike loop will serve a great public need in regard to the supply and workforce traffic to and from Tinker Air Force Base. Reliable and efficient transportation is an absolute necessity for national defense, and connections to Tinker must meet that criterion. Tinker’s workforce of 26,000 people creates a significant amount of traffic, even without the inclusion of daily supply deliveries. Having an improved highway to reach major intersections for north Oklahoma City and Tulsa would prove an invaluable addition to our state’s transportation system and to the Tinker workforce.
For recognizing the great need and future demands that will be placed on our state’s transportation system, I applaud the governor for her commitment to the Driving Forward plan.