Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Turnpike Authority OKs $475 Million Bond Issue

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Turnpike Authority OKs $475 Million Bond Issue

Article excerpt

Journal Record Staff Reporter

Trustees of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority voted Thursday to sell $475 million worth of revenue bonds to extend two turnpikes and to rebuild the state's two oldest toll roads.

The turnpike authority also approved an improvement package which includes a $61.85 million extension of a third turnpike as well as $152.4 million in other major maintenance projects over the next five years to be funded from the authority's cash flow.

A bond proposal package is expected to be sent to the state bond oversight commissions in time for action during their Sept. 22 meeting. If approval is given at that time, said authority Chairman James C. Orbison, the bonds could be offered for sale in October or November.

Thursday's resolution, which passed unanimously, calls for: $160 million to extend the Kilpatrick Turnpike in northern Oklahoma City 12 miles west to near Sara Rd., then south to meet with Interstate 40 in the vicinity of Sara Rd., east of Yukon. $185 million to extend the Muskogee Turnpike from Webbers Falls, just north of I-40, southeast to Poteau, a distance of 46 miles. $60 million to rebuild the Turner Turnpike, including new interchanges at Stroud and Luther. $70 million to rebuild the Will Rogers Turnpike, including a new interchange at Quapaw.

Besides the bond-funded construction, the authority proposes extending the Creek Turnpike, on the south edge of Tulsa five miles west to meet with the Turner Turnpike. The estimated $61.85 million cost would be borne through cash flow, or toll revenues on all turnpikes, as would $152.4 million worth of maintenance and rehabilitation of all the system.

It is, admittedly, a compromise package reached through four years of study and planning from more ambitious projects offered by other authority members and Gov. David Walters.

Early last year, Walters proposed a massive $3.09 billion turnpike and state-supported road package. That package was vetoed by the Oklahoma Legislature after months of heady debate.

Thursday's proposal is a much scaled-back version.

"This is the best proposal we have," Orbison told other trustees just before the vote. "It's the best because the governor supports it. Obviously without his support, we couldn't have a package like this.

"It is more than adequate to meet the maintenance needs and to add capacity to our existing system."

Thursday's total package is expected to raise toll fees by 6.5 percent per year over the next five years. This increase, Managing Director Terry Young said, would be in addition to the annual increase tied to inflation or the consumer price index.

A 10.6 percent annual increase probably would be the result, he said.

If the oversight commissions approve the bond issue in early September, construction would begin immediately. The Kilpatrick and Creek turnpike extensions then would be expected to open for traffic by Jan. …

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