The Norman Transcript


September 23, 2012

Let’s look at real reasons for road damage

NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:

This editorial, (Sept. 12, “State’s bridge work still on schedule”) stands as an apparently unintended tribute to the astounding disappearance of the professional curiosity of the Oklahoma Press.

The last Oklahoma Department of Transportation director to speak clearly about the real reasons for the ongoing decline of our state’s roads and bridges served under Gov. David Walters.

Since then, a wall of complicit silence has fallen around ODOT’s administrative offices at 200 NE 21st — as Neal McCaleb disciple Gary Ridley, “the P.E. without a dee-gree,” (serving simultaneously as secretary of transportation and director of ODOT and turnpikes) dominates both the legislature — and, apparently, the Press — with his highway lobby-inspired yap.

The crush of heavy trucks massively underpaying their cost responsibility on the roads of this state and the nation is the strangely unremarked “600-pound gorilla in the hobnail boots” sitting in the corner. Until the endless corporate welfare hose is yanked out of trucking’s jaws, public roads and public safety — as well as the national economy — will continue to suffer.

When challenged to speak up about this, Ridley and his lieutenants mutter that “it’s not their job to make policy.” Unless, of course — that “policy” involves “shoveling more money into the problem.” That’s a different story. Turns out that, in the long run, all that “new money” state legislators tell their constituents that they’re putting into roads is just making the problem bigger — while other needed state services go begging.

What’s required is quite simple: Real, basic, reform. State and national governments should immediately commission comprehensive Highway Cost Allocation Studies — based on the established “Equity Ratio” model (instead of the trucking lobby’s skewed “sufficiency ratio” model), establishing conclusively what each class of vehicle using the public’s roads ought to be paying for their use. (Oklahoma government has never in its history completed such a study.)

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