Oklahoma Turnpike Authority Plans Hike
Traveling the Sooner State may soon be getting more expensive, at least if the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority gets approval from the state Supreme Court on a proposed increase to the state's turnpike fees. The OTA recently tabled a proposal to increase state turnpike tolls 12% in January of 2017, as part of a three-phase increase that would see tolls raised another 2.5% in January of 2018 and again in January of the following year.
The OTA has placed plans for the increase, worth an estimated $900 million, on hold while a lawsuit filed against the plan plays out in the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The OTA requested the increase in order to finance new projects, including a link to
Tulsa's outer loop, building of a bridge across the Arkansas river, reconstruction of a 20 mile stretch of the Turner Turnpike southwest of Tulsa, and the rebuilding of a dangerous stretch of the Muskogee Turnpike. Also planned is a new toll road that would connect the I-40 with the Turner Turnpike, a plan which OTA says would lessen traffic along the turnpike, but has met with opposition from residents along the proposed route.
Oral arguments in the law suit are scheduled September 20th before an Oklahoma Supreme Court referee. On Tuesday, OTA officials instructed their attorneys to seek a Supreme Court order validating the toll increases. The Authority originally planned to use the increases to pay-off the current outstanding debt related to the Turner Turnpike construction, and then eliminate the tolls on the turnpike.The Authority changed that plan after winning authorization to use revenue from one turnpike to fund others, pushing a potential pay-off further into the future. The authority plans to incur $480 million in additional bond debt to fund new construction. The increased tolls would service that debt, a proposed additional $480 million, with the proposed payoff date extended to 2031.