OTA Approves $200 Million Revolving Line of Credit for Toll Highway Construction

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority on Tuesday passed a resolution to approve a $200 million revolving line of credit with Wells Fargo, NA – an effort officials say is necessary to maintain infrastructure Road Access Oklahoma long-range plan on the right track.

The vote took place during the regular meeting of the finance committee.

“Of course we’re a bit disappointed that it’s been approved, but I’m not surprised,” said concerned Norman owner Randy Carter.

“They just took the next step to making this toll road a reality in our neighborhood, [and] I can’t help but take it personally,” he added, telling KFOR about the house he has been living in since 1979 from the start.

Officials previously said ACCESS Oklahoma would be funded through bonds, with no impact on the state budget.

The program will be funded through bonds, while the maintenance and operating costs of the toll highways are expected to be managed from toll revenues and other resources.

To receive final approval, the bond proposal must now be heard and voted on by the Council of Bond Oversight, a five-member body responsible for reviewing and approving all funding applications from EU agencies and authorities. State.

The board meets monthly to review funding requests and may set specific approval conditions that must be met before funding is granted to the OTA; the measure will be heard at their next regular meeting scheduled for May 4and.

Oklahoma officials continue to say the 15-year, $5 billion plan is key to advancing expansion and reinvestment in the state, adding that the bridge funding will also allow for engineering studies and long-awaited environmental impact assessments to continue, adding that the process will be based on the requirements of their regulatory agency partners, including; The Bureau of Land Reclamation; the Water Resources Council; Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality; The United States Fish and Wildlife Service; and the US Army Corps of Engineers, according to Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz.

The meeting was also attended by other Oklahomans who would be affected by the southern extension, saying that neither the city (of Norman) nor the legislators are getting the answers they need to comfortably move forward with the project.

“It’s important that people understand what’s going on, [and we’re not] get the answers,” said Sherrie Snow, who will be impacted by the construction taking place along the Southern Extension.

Snow said she and others have been proactive in trying to stop the interim funding vote, while expressing annoyance at the potential for homes, other lands and environments to be affected.

“The bridge funding will help us get out of the starting blocks and get to the point where we have better engineering, better information,” Gatz said, adding that the agency has already pulled the trigger on environmental studies to help measure and minimize the projected impact.

KFOR requested a list of environmental impact studies already performed and planned from OK Transportation officials, along with a timeline for completion, when and how the findings will be made public, and received the following from the Oklahoma Transportation Cabinet’s Strategic Communications Division:

Exact studies (minimum), to be completed by Spring 2023:

  1. Delimitation of waters and wetlands
  2. Biological assessment (endangered, threatened and candidate species, identified critical habitat, bald eagle and migratory bird assessments)
  3. Cultural Resources Survey (Archaeological and Historical Resources)

In an email to KFOR, officials also stated the following, in a partial statement:

Noise studies will be carried out once the design is more complete. Resource location information will be publicly available at that time, with the exception of archaeological sites, whose locations are protected information. Reports will not be finalized until they have been reviewed by outside agencies occurring closer to construction.

Brenda Perry Clark
Strategic Communications Division
Oklahoma Transportation

“You speak [at least] 600 households. You talk about the Thunderbird Lake water supply, the Norman Animal Sanctuary, the wildlife,” added Pike Off OTA volunteer Michele Eccleston.

“Obviously, [the plan is] is going to have to be refined a bit, especially on the southern extension, but we’ve put a lot of effort into not coming up with a three-mile-wide corridor plan,” Gatz said.

“We have tried to reduce this as much as possible,” he continued, telling reporters on Tuesday that the proposed plan will go through “another iteration” based on an environmental study and technical improvements, a series of measures which, according to him, “will reduce the [impact] footprint even more” with a long-term approach to the plan.

Following the studies, Gatz said the agency is committed to helping Oklahomans affected by the right-of-way acquisition find “alternate housing”; however, local residents were resistant.

“One of the most disappointing things is that if that happens, I’m going to have to clean my house instead of my kids after I’m gone,” Carter said.

“The land has suffered enough damage as it is,” Eccleston said. “We don’t need to mark it with another toll road anymore.”

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