Recently, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) has been in local news a great deal, mostly concerning questions regarding the recent raising of tolls.
Most Oklahomans would agree that the OTA is a necessary evil; that is, the roads are necessary, but the OTA and their profit scheme is evil.
I could go on about how the OTA broke its promise to Oklahoma by not making the Turner and Will Rogers Turnpikes free when they were paid for. Or I could go on about how they build unnecssary roads. Or I could go on about how they continually raise tolls simply to build other turnpikes.
But the purpose of this post is to raise a question that needs to be raised.
My family was returning from Branson, MO, to Oklahoma via Joplin. We had been driving on I-44 out of Joplin on nice smooth free road. As soon as we arrived in Oklahoma, where the road was no longer free and we had to pay a toll, the road condition deteriorated.
The surface was no longer smooth, but rough. And we had to pay to drive on it.
That got me to thinking.
I called the Missouri Department of Transportation and asked to speak to someone who could answer my questions. After a few moments, I spoke with Mike Middleton, District Materials and Construction Engineer.
He was quite helpful and didn't hesitate to answer my questions. I asked how much MoDoT spent on resurfacing I-44 between Joplin and the State line. He told me that it was about $400,000 per mile using an asphalt overlay. He said they used Apac Missouri as the contractor and it was by competitive bidding only. He said it usually lasts 7 years.
I then called OTA. I spoke with Jack Damerall, director of public relations. He seemed rather hesitant to answer any questions regarding cost related to the turnpikes. I must have caught him on a bad day because he seemed like he flat didn't want to talk to me and I had a hard time getting information from him. In the end, however, he said that it gets resurfaced every 5-8 years at a cost of $3-4 MILLION DOLLARS PER MILE! He said in certain circumstances, it could be as much as 10 million dollars per mile. He said it was by competitive bidding, but wouldn't give me a contractor's name.
Something is VERY wrong with this picture! $400,000 per mile of free road in Missouri and $3-4 MILLION per mile of toll road in Oklahoma!
FOR THE SAME STINKING HIGHWAY!
I have contacted KOTV Channel 6 twice about this, but evidentally no one is interested in stirring up a hornets' nest.
I have waited patiently for them to break this story, but have decided it is time for me to report the information I have.
WHY does it cost 10 times the amount per mile in Oklahoma for toll road than it does in Missouri for free road?
I'm not accusing anyone of anything, but it appears that someone, or someones, have their hands in the turnpikes' pockets.
I say, ENOUGH!
Everyone, contact Channel 6, or the other channels, or the newspapers! Let's get this information public so that someone will have to answer this!
I'm sick and tired of what appears to be corruption.
Where's the state senators? Where are the state representatives? What about the Governor?
Why is everyone silent?
I have traveled from Tulsa to SW Missouri for decades. I grew up not far from Branson. I don't believe I have, even once, gone up there when there was not road construction going on on the turnpike.
The Constitution of Missouri requires gas tax to go to the roads, Oklahoma's only 'earmarks' it. That is the source of the problem, however I digress.
The issue is the OTA itself. A secretive autonomous Authority that has it's own source of money to slosh around at it's whim.
Bureaucracies always find ways to perpetuate themselves and keep themselves busy, and that is what they are doing.
Plus, I strongly suspect that companies owned by buddies and brothers in law of board members get a lot of the business of resurfacing.
When I was in college the OTA and Grand River Dam Authority were even focal points in my Gov't class! They were held up as examples of secretive budgeting process. I think they are more open now than then, but one sure wonders....
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