Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Construction of Scaled-Down Turnpikes Passed

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Construction of Scaled-Down Turnpikes Passed

Article excerpt

Formal approval came Thursday for four scaled-down turnpikes in Oklahoma estimated to cost $362 million, despite opposition expressed by some state legislators and government leaders.

Lawsuits to block a bond issue to pay for the turnpikes, which would require refinancing existing tollroads, have been threatened, but no one can pinpoint who would file such a suit.

A lawsuit was anticipated by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority Thursday when it passed two resolutions approving a bond issue "not to exceed $600 million" and formally stating plans for the turnpikes.

The resolutions, said turnpike Attorney William J. Robinson, will be presented to the Oklahoma Supreme Court seeking validation of the bond issue.

A Supreme Court decision is expected within 60 days of filing, Robinson said. However, he did not say specifically when it would be filed, only that "it will be filed immediately."

The resolution passed unanimously after a brief debate on whether to postpone action until the bond underwriter provides specific information on the number of bond issues, types of bonds to be included and prevailing interest rates.

As presented to the authority, the resolution contained blank spaces which Chairman John Kilpatrick opposed, "just like I don't want to sign blank checks."

"I want to do this correctly," Kilpatrick said. "If we are going to be in court, I don't want to be attacked for technical mistakes."

Because of the delay while waiting for a supreme court decision, Robinson said, all those figures probably would change before bonds are finally sold.

"This is a resolution stating your intent that interest rates will not exceed state law," he said. "You will still have to give final approval to the issue after the underwriter comes back with those specific figures."

Another court may get the issue first, Lt. Gov. Robert S. Kerr III said after the turnpike authority action.

"I'm not surprised in the least about the authority's action," Kerr said. "I don't think anyone in Oklahoma is.

"But if this issuance takes place, it will be determined by the courts. I have heard that a suit will be filed to block this issuance, but I have not been able to determine who will file it."

Kerr and State Rep. Don Duke, D-Ardmore, have been the most vocal opponents of the turnpike package, primarily because of a "super two-lane" turnpike between Sulphur and Ada which will join highway projects of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

Earlier this month, Duke said he, too, had heard of a potential lawsuit, but didn't know who would file. …

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