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The Oklahoma Transportation Commission recently approved three plans that will steer infrastructure projects in the coming years.
The commission on Oct. 14 voted to approve the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s Eight-year Construction Work Plan, which outlines the agency’s project course through fiscal 2027. The group approved two additional plans, one regarding asset preservation and the other outlining county road and bridge improvements.
“Though not all equal in size or scope, each of these three infrastructure plans is a vitally important road map for the department and the counties working hand in hand to address separate parts,” ODOT Executive Director Tim Gatz said. “By following these plans, our state’s largest asset — the roads and bridges — is being preserved and replaced consistently, which makes our transportation network safer, more efficient and more effective from county roads all the way to the interstates.”
The eight-year plan contributes nearly $6.5 billion to 1,396 transportation projects, such as rehabilitating bridges, adding shoulders to narrow highways and improving pavement conditions to increase safety and reduce wear on vehicles.
Supported through a combination of state income tax and motor fuel tax revenue, as well as federal Highway Trust Fund dollars, the plan is updated annually to reflect completed projects and adjustments in cost projections.
One key element of the eight-year plan is a focus on replacing structurally deficient bridges and addressing aging bridges before they develop deficiencies. The plan outlines 657 bridge replacement or major rehabilitation projects. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, some 11% of Oklahoma’s bridges are structurally deficient.
The commission greenlighted a $482 million Asset Preservation Plan, which outlines pavement projects for 2,500 lane miles of road and rehabilitation efforts for 85 bridges. The plan outlines projects through fiscal 2023.
The third plan the commission approved pertains to the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges (CIRB) program, which allows counties to develop and schedule projects for roads and bridges on their systems. The CIRB plan devotes nearly $1 billion through fiscal 2024. The plan is slated to address 375 county bridges, some 179 of which are structurally deficient, according to ODOT. The CIRB plan is devised by county commissioners and government engineers.
“The bridges and roads in the plan are the most critical within the state and so large in scope that local resources would never be able to address them,” said Gene Wallace, executive director of the Association of County Commissioners of Oklahoma.
Wallace noted that some of Oklahoma’s bridges were designed in the 1920s and are ill-equipped to handle the weight of vehicles today.
“They were designed for horse, wagon and Model T traffic,” Wallace said. “When we look at a critical bridge, weight limit is a huge portion of that.”
Wallace said a sound transportation system is critical for the state’s industrial well-being, citing the large workforce dedicated to agriculture and oil production. He said a safe access road is just as important as a well-kept city road.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Oklahoma’s top commodities include cattle, hogs and broilers. A broiler is a chicken raised for meat production.
“The economic engine that drives our state is soil, oil and toil,” Wallace said. “Our principal focus is to provide service to the public and provide infrastructure for safe passage. I think it’s a critical need, not only in Oklahoma, but in every state we travel.”
The first CIRB plan was published in 2007. Projects are generally considered for the plan based on surface condition, average annual daily traffic, truck traffic, accident history and capacity needs.
“It’s been an outstanding program,” Wallace said. “We work in conjunction with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, and so we’re addressing some very critical needs for safety, as far as roads and bridges are concerned in our state.”
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