, Muskogee, OK

January 22, 2014

Road, bridge work must be maintained

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

A baker’s dozen of those bridges in Muskogee County will see some repair from the evolving “Eight Year Construction Work Plan.” The plan improves the state’s highways and bridges at an estimated cost of $117,227,869.

The plan covers 13 sites in Muskogee County, including Interstate 40, U.S. 62, U.S. 64, U.S. 69 and U.S. 266 and Oklahoma 2, Oklahoma 10 and Oklahoma 100.

The “Eight Year Construction Work Plan” sprang from an initiative created by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2011. The initiative concentrated on fixing structurally deficient bridges on state highways by 2019.

The plan is funded by a combination of federal and state transportation dollars.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials told the Associated Press the construction plan and a separate initiative to preserve existing roads and bridges will ensure that all remaining structurally deficient bridges in the state will be repaired or replaced by the end of the decade.

Legislators and Fallin have made great strides increasing the funding for repair or replacement of state bridges, and they should be applauded for tackling an issue that has been ignored for far too long.

But it is not enough.

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

This isn’t an issue that will go away once the bridges and roads are repaired.

They must be maintained.

Oklahomans voted down a fuel tax in 2005 that would have been dedicated to road and bridge improvements.

Some contend that a fuel tax is necessary for maintenance of roadways because the backlog of improvements is several billion dollars.

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 made it clear a fuel tax likely won’t work.

So state officials must devise a plan for maintaining the roads and bridges once they are fixed.