Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Agency's New Funds Set for Road Repairs

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Agency's New Funds Set for Road Repairs

Article excerpt

New money to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for fiscal year 1997 will be used primarily for rehabilitation of existing roads.

The department's budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 will be $639.2 million, an increase of $28.7 million from the previous year.

In the budget, regular highway maintenance is up $3.8 million while federal aid construction is up $14.3 million and state aid construction gets a $15.9 million increase, Mike Patterson, department comptroller, told the Oklahoma Transportation Commission Monday.

The commission unanimously approved the budget, which includes $4 million in raises for the department's 2,700 employees.

Not all the increased money, however, is for highways. The Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission is to receive $2.5 million of the increase for airport rehabilitation while public transit programs in the state will receive an additional $500,000.

"This also includes a pass-through of $7.5 million for rural roads," Patterson said. "This money is earmarked for small cities and towns, counties and unincorporated areas for transportation-related projects.

"It's part of the Rural Economic Action Plan to enhance the infrastructure of the smaller communities for economic development.

"Money will simply be passed through the department. It's really not a part of our budget."

Commissioners also agreed to use a logo designed by the Interstate 35 Corridor Coalition to mark an area within a 20-mile radius of where Interstate Highways 35 and 40 intersect and where 35 intersects with Interstate Highway 44 as "America's Corner."

The intersection received that designation by Senate Joint Resolution 37, which received final approval last month, to promote "the state as a national hub for transportation-sensitive industries," said Mike Mayberry, assistant transportation director for administration.

"A previous resolution, Senate Joint Resolution 22, signed by the governor in April 1995, designated I-35 as the International North American Free Trade Agreement Superhighway and encouraged support for the designation of I-40, I-44, U.S. 69, U.S. 81, U.S. 412, U.S. 62, U.S. 60, State Hwy. 152, the Chickasaw Turnpike, State Hwy. 7 and U.S. 70 as `Official United States Corridor branches,' " Mayberry said.

"(The latest resolution) states that the area surrounding the intersection of such major transportation branches readily avails itself to private and public sector promotion to enhance the state's position as a national hub for transportation-sensitive industries and research facilities."

Designating the intersection as America's Corner helps promote the state for trade and tourism, said state Sen. Keith Leftwich, D- Oklahoma City, senate author of the resolution.

"It's important that we are finally beginning to recognize the assets we have and promoting them instead of bemoaning the assets we don't have," Leftwich told commissioners. …

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