Quality Improving Thanks To More Funding
Oklahomans love to drive.
There's so much to see and do in our great state, it's easy to want to get in the car and drive around town or to destinations like Little Sahara, Quartz Mountain, Grand Lake, Beaver's Bend or sporting and cultural events. Even with high gas prices, we still want to see it all.
Unfortunately, the ride is often rough from our homes to our destinations due to poor road and bridge conditions statewide. Every day, most of us drive over or under crumbling, outdated bridges well in need of repair.
Also, our children ride heavy buses to school over those same poor roadways and overpasses. We're always looking out for our children's safety, but we've partially overlooked the safety of the routes they take to school every day.
For many years, Oklahoma roads left much to be desired. Prior to 2005, only about $200 million was allocated for our roads and bridges each year, $70 million of which was for bond payments. That meant only about $130 million was actually available for upkeep and construction of roads and bridges.
When you consider the thousands of miles of road in Oklahoma, that's a paltry number, yet that number stayed pretty level for decades.
Thanks to new efforts in the past three years, the situation is getting better. We passed a new law to better fund county roads thanks to an increased share in the state motor vehicle taxes. That change kicks in this month, which means every county in the state will receive 5 percent more to fund road projects. That equates to about $28 million in new funding.
And that's only the beginning. The amount of motor vehicle tax proceeds for counties will go up to 10 percent next year, then 15 percent in 2009. Once it's fully in place, county road projects will see an increase of about $85 million more per year thanks to this reform.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation also has a plan to fix the 100 most dilapidated county bridges and 200 miles of county roads in the state within the next five years. Those are improvements that you and I will soon see in our own communities, first-hand.
With these reforms and others like them, state funding for roads and bridges has been on the upswing the past two years, increasing to about $395 million this year. That's almost double what was provided just two years ago.
Roads are like arteries that carry the lifeblood of our state - people. From keeping kids safe on their way to school to supporting the trucks that deliver goods and services, roads are important for every aspect of our daily lives. While we can't go back two decades and fix the funding problems of the past, a lot is being done in the present to ensure that, in the future, Oklahoma roads are better than ever.
Earl Sears (R- Bartlesville) serves District 11 of the Oklahoma House of Representatives. He can be reached by phone at (405) 557-7358 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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