OKLAHOMA CITY — It wasn’t long ago that Oklahoma relied almost exclusively on federal transportation dollars to fund its highway and bridge building program.
State-appropriated tax dollars couldn’t keep up with the maintenance needs of the 12,262 miles of highways and 6,812 bridge spans in the state — a transportation network that was described as among the worst in the nation in 2005 by a national transportation research group.
But changes in funding priorities have prompted the Legislature to approve a series of measures that ramped up transportation funding over the years and more than doubled the amount of state tax dollars that are appropriated to repair, replace and build new highways and bridges in the state.
And for the first time in state history, state revenue appropriated for Oklahoma’s highways and bridges has surpassed federal transportation revenue.
“It’s changed the whole complexion of the state and how we’re been able to provide safety to the traveling public,” said Mike Patterson, executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
“We are able to address many of the needs that we have been unable to take care of in the past,” Patterson said.
Figures provided by the agency indicate highway revenue in Oklahoma for the fiscal year that ended June 30 totaled $1,068 billion. More than half the total, $544 million, was state tax dollars and marked the first time that state-appropriated funds exceeded federal transportation dollars, which totaled about $524 million for the year.
And those figures will continue to climb in future years, according to ODOT. The federal estimate for transportation funding in the upcoming year is around $497 million and the state estimate for the year is $605 million, the agency said.
State funding for highways and bridges from fuel taxes and other appropriations is expected to level off at around $775 million a year in 2019 — three times as much state revenue as was dedicated to transportation in 2005.