, Muskogee, OK

September 21, 2013

State must prioritize bridge repair

— Many of Oklahoma’s 23,000 bridges are in need of repair or replacement.

This fact exposes a fundamental flaw in how government works.

Citizens and legislators seem to believe our fiscal responsibility ends once government has paid for something.

That’s not an attitude that car owners or homeowners can afford to take with those major purchases.

Monthly payments are just part of the fiscal responsibility.

You must budget for upkeep, insurance and repair of both car and home.

State officials don’t always see things that way — or we would not be in this situation.

State officials told the Associated Press that Oklahoma had 348 bridges across the state that are both structurally deficient and fracture critical.

Oklahoma transportation officials told the AP funding has increased for programs to fix and replace both state and county bridges, but they say more work needs to be done.

It’s true.

Legislators and the governor have made strides in increasing the funding for repair or replacement of state bridges.

It is not enough.

The state has to do a better job of taking care of these structures.

And citizens have to understand their safety is at stake if state officials can’t fund infrastructure repair or replacement at the proper levels.

Citizens have some expectation that tolls should disappear once enough money has been collected to offset the construction of the toll road.

That’s just the start.

Perhaps state transportation officials can discuss keeping toll booths up for years after construction costs have been recovered.

If citizens knew the tolls were paying for the repair of other bridges, they might drive with greater peace of mind.