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OK Governor Wants to Re-evaluate Road Projects

Thu January 09, 2003 - National Edition
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Pending road projects in the state may be too much of a financial gamble, said Oklahoma Gov.-elect Brad Henry who would like to study the proposals even though they have already been signed by Gov. Frank Keating.

“I don’t know if I have an option to re-evaluate the specific projects,” Henry said. “If I do, I possibly might do that.”

The $1-billion program includes 12 highway projects that include the Interstate 44-Broadway Extension interchange in Oklahoma City and the I-44 widening project in Tulsa.

Henry said he is particularly concerned by bonds used to fund the program that allow the state to borrow on federal money it has not yet received.

“You’re relying on anticipated revenue,” Henry said of the so-called Garvee bonds. “If it doesn’t come, you have a problem. We’re already hearing that our federal transportation dollars could decline.”

Henry said he would be particularly worried if the state is bonding more than 10 or 15 percent of its anticipated annual federal highwaymoney. The state Transportation Commission has said it wants to keep the debt service on these federal bonds below one-third of its federal highway money.

Henry said he also is concerned that Garvee could build more roads than the state could afford to maintain. He said Oklahoma is about $400 million short of what it needs to maintain the highways it already has.

So far, the road program is pending before the Oklahoma Supreme Court and no money has been spent on it yet.

Oklahoma received $428 million in federal highway money in the federal fiscal year that ended Oct. 1. Federal money is used for construction while state money goes toward maintenance.

Herschal Crow, cabinet secretary for transportation and an advocate of the Garvee program, said he is looking forward to talking with Henry.

“It seems to me that at a time that funding is going to be at a premium, it just might be that Garvee could afford him some options he wouldnot have otherwise,” Crow said.




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