County Commissioners Join in Urging State Officials to Leave Transportation Funding IntactMon, 11 May 2015 15:23:24 CDT
Many rural roads and bridges in Oklahoma sustained extensive damage, and some state highways were flooded, in the storms that raked the state last week, and more rain is forecast this week.
As a direct consequence, several county commissioners and House Democratic legislators on Monday urged Governor Fallin to leave state and county transportation funds intact and not divert any of that revenue to plug the $611 million shortfall in the state budget.
As just one example, LeFlore County’s Board of County Commissioners adopted an emergency resolution Monday in which they asked the governor and the Legislature to declare a State of Emergency “to provide relief funding” to the eastern Oklahoma county, where damage to county roads and bridges is thought to be in excess of half a million dollars.
“This amount is a preliminary estimate only, with pending situations still being assessed,” the commissioners said. Bohanon Bridge near Talihina, “which is our priority,” has been “completely washed away,” the commissioners reported.
The LeFlore County commissioners asked the State of Oklahoma to “consider our situation with regards to the CIRB Funding Program and maintaining it at its current level.” The County Improvements to Roads and Bridges fund is “vitally important to the infrastructure of Oklahoma and our economy,” wrote Commission Chairman Lance Smith, Vice Chairman Derwin Gist, and member Cebern Scott.
Counties depend on the CIRB fund to finance big-ticket items such as bridge replacement and road reconstruction projects. Currently that fund has $254 million, ledgers reflect.
County commissioners in Caddo and Grady counties issued initial, preliminary estimates of one-quarter-million dollars of damage in each county to bridges and culverts.
One washed-out bridge in Caddo County will cost an estimated $60,000 to replace, officials said. (Photo attached.) That structure was constructed by the WPA (established in 1935, dissolved in 1943) when Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, noted Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha.
LeFlore County Commissioner Scott said recently that he has more than 500 miles of county roads and more than 140 bridges, several of which were constructed by the WPA, in his district in southern LeFlore County. The CIRB fund is critical to maintenance of his transportation network, he said. “We rely on that money…That’s our lifeline.”
House Democrats also urged state budget writers and the governor to leave state transportation funding intact, largely because the full extent of damage from last week’s storms has not yet been determined.
“The water is still rising in my area,” said Rep. James Lockhart, D-Heavener. “We won’t know how bad it really is until the water goes down.”
“At the moment, we still have roadways under water, so a full assessment of our system cannot be developed until the water recedes,” echoed Anthony Echelle, Division 2 engineer with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, in a message to state Rep. Brian Renegar, D-McAlester.
Washouts from the rainfall included the shoulders of two highways in Pittsburg County: S.H. 31 two and a half miles east of S.H. 31a, and a section of U.S. 270 one mile west of the Indian Nation Turnpike. (Photos attached)
“With the damage from the ice and snow earlier this year, to the saturation of flooding, our pavement infrastructure is a huge concern,” Echelle advised Renegar.
Eight state legislators sent an appeal Monday afternoon to Governor Fallin, urging her to visit some of the affected sites to see the damage for herself. In addition, they asked her to “please protect both county and state transportation funding as you consider the final components” of the state budget. “Governor, our soils are saturated, our creeks and ponds are at capacity,” and more rain is forecast later this week,” the legislators wrote.
Signatories included state Reps. Donnie Condit, D-McAlester; Johnny Tadlock, D-Idabel; Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs; Ed Cannaday, D-Porum; Sen. Larry Boggs, R-Wilburton; Perryman, Lockhart and Renegar.
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