Oklahoma Turnpike Authority

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority said Tuesday that while heavy truck traffic in August had risen to above pre-pandemic levels for the first time since travel dropped off due to COVID-19, incidents of trucks striking bridges have also increased.

"I think we may have had on the order of around seven or eight bridge strikes this year, which is quite a few for us," said Darian Butler, OTA's director of engineering, on a Tuesday meeting of the authority's board held virtually. "I don't know exactly what the reasons are for that."

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.

A lot of drivers on some Oklahoma toll roads may be going closer to the speed limit soon.

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority on Tuesday approved raising the speed limit on some stretches of toll road to 80 mph. One of those is 13 miles of the Turner Turnpike between Sapulpa and Bristow, where OTA recently finished construction on an expansion to six lanes. OTA Executive Director and State Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz said the speed limit increases were recommended only after a thorough study of each area.

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority earlier this month closed on a $120 million federal loan to help with construction of the Gilcrease Expressway in west Tulsa.

The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, or TIFIA, loan will be used to pay off private, short-term financing being put up for the project in a few years time.