OTA Meeting Norman Public Library

Meeting attendees gather April 19 during a meeting hosted by the Oklahoma Transportation Authority to answer questions about the proposed turnpike in Cleveland County.

A lawsuit filed last week contends the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is not following the law when it comes to how it will pay for upcoming projects.

The OTA announced plans in February it would construct two new toll roads in Norman. One turnpike, known as the South Extension, will be constructed in east Norman west of Lake Thunderbird in the watershed to connect the Kickapoo Turnpike to Purcell. The second, known as the East West Connector will run along Indian Hills Road to connect Moore, Norman, and Oklahoma City.

Elaine Dowling and Robert Norman filed their legal challenge in Cleveland County District Court Monday on behalf of Pike Off OTA and dozens of other plaintiffs. The lawsuit contends that because the South Extension is not described in a 1987 bill adopted by the state legislature, the proposed toll road is not unauthorized by lawmakers and cannot be built until it is codified in state law.

In a second claim for relief, the two local attorneys also allege the OTA cannot build two other toll roads because the agency seeks a bond it should have issued for them in 1989, when it did so for other projects listed in the 1987 bill.

The Tri-City Connector and the East West Connector are described in that bill. The Tri-City route will connect the Kilpatrick Turnpike from State Highway 152 south to I-44. The East West corridor will connect from Newcastle east to Interstate 35 and then east to I-40 to link to the Kickapoo Turnpike, along Indian Hills Road.

As reported by the newspaper, the OTA has said proposed turnpike projects — including those in the Norman area — were authorized by the 1987 bill.

But Norman told The Transcript the two proposed toll roads were not included in the 1989 bond issue, but both roads are included in the current plan under a new proposed bond issue.

Title 69, Section 1705(f) states that turnpike projects “shall be financed, constructed and operated under one bond indenture.”

“The East West Connector and the Tri-City Connector are something that the OTA is no longer authorized to build,” Norman said. “Their one bond issue was [in] 1989.”

A spokesman for the OTA said the agency is still reviewing the lawsuit and had no further comment. No hearings have been set in the case, which is set to be heard by Judge Lori Walkley, the state court network indicated.

Mindy Wood covers City Hall news and notable court cases for The Transcript. Reach her at mwood@normantranscript.com or 405-416-4420.

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