For over 60 years, Oklahomans have been sold many lies about our turnpikes. One of the biggest lies was that “once the roads were paid for they would become free roads.”
Here we are in 2017 and not one turnpike has been turned back over to the state. Not to mention that the public has NO idea how the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is run.
We don’t know who owns the bonds, who owned the property before the turnpike authority purchased the land. We don’t know how much money the turnpike authority truly spends!
However, we do know that not one dime of the toll gate money comes back to the state treasury. Not to mention that the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority doesn’t pay any property taxes. Despite all of this, we have never had a Governor in our State call for an independent, forensic audit of the Oklahoma Turnpikes.
You look at our neighbor states and many of them find money to build roads without resorting the turnpikes. Yet here we are in Oklahoma, having been sold a bill of goods to think that turnpikes are our only option to build new highways.
It’s time to take back the turnpikes by first demanding a truly independent-ordered forensic audit of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. I won’t be surprised if that audit uncovers millions of dollars in waste and outright fraud. From there, as Governor, I will work with the legislature to begin the process to dismantle the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and bring these roads back into the control of the people of Oklahoma.
Gary Richardson's 5 Year Plan to Make the Turnpikes Free Roads Again
Dismantle the OTA and put the maintenance and operation under ODOT. In the 1995 transportation study, around $26 million in savings could have been realized, which equaled the operational costs of OTA in 1995. In 2018, the operational costs for OTA save depreciation is around $95 million per year. It is safe to assume that ODOT could operate the turnpikes at a MUCH lower mile per year rate especially when taking to account the high cost of maintenance per mile that OTA spends ($3-$4 million per mile per year) compared to surrounding states like Missouri, which costs around $400,000 per mile per year. Click here to see the comparison cost per mile
Stop issuing new bonds. Our indebtedness grows every time we issue new construction bonds. In 2017, almost $1 billion in new bonds were issued, increasing the OTA indebtedness to $1.7 billion. In addition, there are 25 already approved turnpikes that can be built if we don't stop the expansion of the OTA
Use the tolls to pay off the existing bonds. The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority collects around $265 million every year in tolls, money that that doesn't go to the State of the Oklahoma... NOT ONE PENNY! When added to the $100 million cash on hand that the OTA has, the $200 million in restricted money required while maintaining the bonds, and savings in dismantling the OTA, the balance of the bonds could be paid off conservatively in 5 years allowing the over 600 miles of turnpikes turned into free roads.
Here is a portion of the KPMG study that was commissioned by Governor Frank Keating in 1995.
This report was never widely circulated because it called for the elimination of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
In 2017, after weeks of investigating, our researchers found possibly the last remaining copy in the state archives, misfiled of course.
Click the image of the report to download part 1 of the document. Click here to download part 2.