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State roads and bridges rebuild bill clears House

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KWGS News Photo
Closed bridge north of downtown Tulsa

State lawmakers voted today to dramatically reduce the backlog of bridges needing repair or replacement in Oklahoma. “Although we have made significant progress addressing transportation needs in recent years, there is still much work to be done,” said state Rep. T.W. Shannon, a Lawton Republican who chairs the House Transportation Committee. “This legislation ramps up those efforts and keeps state resources focused on a true core function of government: transportation infrastructure. As we increase road funding, the impact will compound yearly and allow for a rapid reduction in the number of deficient or obsolete bridges in Oklahoma.” House Bill 2248, by Shannon, would increase road funding in the coming fiscal year. Current law calls for an annual increase of $37.5 million in road funding. Shannon’s bill would hike that amount to $56.7 million, directing an additional $19.2 million to the Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver Safety Fund. The bill directs that the fund continue receiving an additional $56.7 million each year until the total increase equals $550 million. House Bill 2249, by Shannon, would direct 16 percent of vehicle licensing fees and penalties to the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges Fund, and increases that amount to 20 percent by 2013. The CIRB program is currently funded with 15 percent of the motor vehicle taxes and fees. House Bill 2249 would increase the estimated annual funding for the CIRB program from approximately $80 million to more than $105 million. Currently, 706 of nearly 6,800 bridges on the state highway system are identified as structurally deficient. Of the 706 bridges, 413 are currently scheduled to be replaced in the next seven years, but 293 remain unfunded. Many of those bridges will be replaced if Shannon’s legislation becomes law. “By improving and replacing dilapidated bridges on Oklahoma roads, we can increase public safety and generate positive economic benefit for all of Oklahoma by ensuring we have modern transportation infrastructure in place throughout the state,” Shannon said. “This legislation will also benefit future generations of Oklahomans by tackling this crucial need today instead of passing the buck to our children.” The two bills are part of Gov. Mary Fallin’s announced transportation agenda for the 2012 session. House Bill 2248 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on an 86-2 vote today. House Bill 2249 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on an 89-1 vote. Both bills now proceed to the state Senate.