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Spike in Coronavirus Cases Pumped the Brakes on Rebounding Oklahoma Turnpike Traffic

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority

Traffic counts on Oklahoma turnpikes had been recovering as the state moved through Gov. Kevin Stitt’s reopening plan, which hit phase three on June 1.

"However, Oklahoma, along with many other states, had shown a spike in COVID-19 cases, which, as expected, slightly slowed the rebound of the authority’s revenues for July. In particular, passenger vehicles declined 9.5% as compared to July 2019," said Oklahoma Turnpike Authority Director of Finance and Revenue Wendy Smith.

Smith said heavy truck traffic — think freight movement — was also lower.

"They were down about 2.5% as compared to July of [2019], but … through Aug. 19, heavy truck traffic actually showed a very tiny improvement. Like, in the hundreds of vehicles as compared to 2019 through that same period," Smith said.

Smith added OTA has fared better overall during the COVID-19 pandemic than toll agencies in most other states.

While traffic on the turnpike system was down, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Zone Commander Mike Mize reported seven deaths on turnpikes in July. OTA Chairman Gene Love said that’s disappointing to hear.

"Especially since for years, we’ve been one of the safest turnpike systems in the country, but based on what you’ve said, we really can’t put a finger on what causes that kind of an increase," Love said.

Mize said there were three fatal crashes on the H.E. Bailey Turnpike.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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