Thursday, March 31, 2016

Turnpikes: Fiasco? Or Self-justification?

By the Watchman

  Everybody is acutely aware of the proposed building of the Turnpike in Eastern Oklahoma County.  It seems to have caught the residents of the area off guard. It's not though. The building of this turnpike was announced by the Governor back on October 15, 2015. That along with five other projects were mentioned in this article here OK Governor & Turnpike Authority Announce $900 Million Expansion & Improvement Project - Toll Roads News. It's just now coming to light because the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has finally released preliminary plans and started holding meeting about those plans. They even plan to start construction on this project this year. Why the rush? Despite what the State Supreme Court says, do they plan on putting the tax payers in debt again by financing this with bonds? Will this turn out like their last project where tax payers had to bail them out and by the turnpike from them? This is idiotic at a time when we are $1.3 billion dollars short on the budget as it is.

  Today it was announced by the local news media that the extension of the Kilpatrick Turnpike would be built. Meetings would be held, but there was not going to be any input from the community. Who do these people think they are? They are as bad as the Bureau of Land Management.

  They plan to reconstruct, again the Turner and H.E. Bailey Turnpikes and they plan to build a 2.5 mile stretch of Turnpike that would connect L.L. Tisdale with I-44. Really !! Charge a toll for a 2.5 mile trip. There will be more construction on the Muskogee Turnpike and they will be funded by a bond issue to be paid back with Toll Road Revenues. They do anticipate a "modest system wide toll increase" of somewhat less than sixteen percent. They failed to mention that these projects will make Oklahoma the state with the highest number of miles under toll roads in the nation. Why should we as a state support such nonsense.

  The next article of interest we found was this Oklahoma Turnpike Authority - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article gives you the names of the people in charge of this rogue agency. At the very top is Governor Mary Fallin. The number two is the Secretary of Transportation and Director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority Gary Ridley. We find it a little disturbing that the Director of the Turnpike Authority and Secretary of Transportation are the same. It has the appearance of a conflict of interest.

  The next article of interest we found was this Oklahoma Turnpike Authority holding public meeting on alignment for Southwest Kilpatrick Extension | It's nice for them to have a meeting, but there will be no presentation or hearing at the meeting. They can talk one on one with engineers, but without having a hearing, what good is that. This boils down to another steamrolling of the citizens that live in the area. All so Mary and Gary can build a reputation for themselves at the expense of hard working Oklahomans.

  The next article of interest we found was this Turnpikes of Oklahoma - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article lists all of the current operating Turnpikes in Oklahoma and the associated highways. It list the turnpikes surveyed but not built and the proposed turnpike expansions and improvements. It fails to list the price increase that will be needed to pay the bonds on the new turnpikes and expansions.

  The next article of interest we found was this Oklahoma governor announces new metro area turnpikes, other improvements | News OK. Now the information on these was initially made public on October 15, 2015. It took until October 29, of 2015 to specifically state the metro area projects. Once again we have to ask why? From what we can tell the only thing we see is an attempt by Governor Fallin and Secretary Ridley to leave their mark on Oklahoma as one of the most expensive states to get around in. Are they blind to the fact that these tolls are taking money out of the pockets of the citizens of this state? Do they care?

  The next article of interest we found is in all honesty very disturbing. You can see it here Oklahoma Turnpike Authority receiving death threats | News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News | KOKH. The proposed turnpike to be built in Eastern Oklahoma County is such a volatile subject that the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has received some death threats over it. We would recommend that you open the link and watch the video. There is some very good information in there. In fact there are indications that the Turnpike Authority lacks oversight, which when the Secretary of the Department of Transportation and the head of the Turnpike Authority are the same individual. That is a definite conflict of interest.

  The next article of interest we found was this OKLAHOMA TURNPIKE AUTHORITY | Oklahoma Watch | State Salaries. This is a list of the salaries that these non-elected bureaucrats are making off the tax paying citizens of the State of Oklahoma. The problem of this is most of these jobs have an equal position in the Department of Transportation. It makes the Turnpike Authority obsolete with the exception of one area, collecting tolls.

  The next article of interest we found was this Oklahoma Turnpike Authority toll system started in 1953 | Local News | The Turnpike System in Oklahoma is over sixty years old. The last year we have figures for is 2013. During that year the Turnpike Authority had a budget of $258 million dollars. Of that, nearly $96 million dollars was allocated to pay debt services on revenue bonds. The currently issued bonds will not be fully repaid until 2031 and now they want more bonds to bill more turnpikes and raise fees to pay for them. Do they honestly think that the tax payer's wallets are a bottomless pit of money? This is insane. It violates our state Constitution and it doesn't display any resemblance of Oklahoma standards.

  The next item of interest we found was this Oklahoma Turnpike Authority - We found this article to be interesting because it gives you a complete breakdown of how the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is staffed. Once again it points to the leadership, Governor Fallin and Gary Ridley, as the individuals that are behind the push to make this state the state with the most mileage under toll roads in the United States. This is what you would expect from the most corrupt state in the union.

  The citizens of Eastern Oklahoma County are not taking the proposed turnpike lightly. They are doing what they can to fight back as you can see here Petition started to halt new Turnpike – Luther Register. We don't know if the petition will do any good. From what we have seen out of this administration, the meetings and town hall presentations they are conducting are really nothing more than dog and pony shows to put on the airs of the look of concern for what the citizens in the area. It's clearly obvious from the actions of the Turnpike Authority that they don't care. They are already marking the route for the new turnpike. This has always been the attitude of Governor Fallin and the Secretary of the Department of Transportation.

  The next article of interest we found was this Turner Turnpike - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This is a report on the State's first turnpike. It also shows that the cost of driving the turnpike continues to rise. Now these turnpikes are able to use funds from other turnpikes to help with the maintenance. With the intake from tolls, fines and fees from vendors, we must ask why. We know they are making enough to more than pay for the upkeep of the turnpikes. Where is the rest of it going?

  The next item of interest we found was this. This is the Turnpike Authority's budget for 2015. Even in this document they fail to account for all the funds that they collected from their various enterprises. It's almost like the Turnpike Authority is a criminal enterprise.

  The next article of interest we found was this  You can compare this 2011 budget to the 2015 budget and see the increase in revenue that they have made. This raises some serious questions. It also raises ethics concerns within the Governor's office and the Secretary of Transportation.

  It has been made clear that the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority under the governance of Governor Fallin and the Secretary of Transportation lack the oversight necessary to be a well-managed office within the state government of Oklahoma. They have demonstrated their intentions to put on a dog and pony show for the citizens of areas of planned projects and then proceed with their project regardless of whose life they may ruin. These do not demonstrate Oklahoma Values. We urge the citizens of areas in the path of any of this proposed project to find a good attorney and fight these illegal and unjustified attempts to remove you from your lands as soon as possible.

  We would also add that the Oklahoma Legislature take up the matter of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority as soon as possible and assume an oversight roll over the Group. We further recommend that the Turnpike Authority be abolished and those jobs be consolidated with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

  It is further recommended that the State of Oklahoma move away from building turnpikes and use the funds collected from existing turnpikes to maintain those turnpikes and other highways and bridges in the state. There would be additional saving to the state from combining the services of the Department of Transportation and the Turnpike Authority. Those additional funds could be used for road maintenance or to retire current bonds early.

  The bottom line folks are that Oklahoma must move away from a bond financed improvement system. Just one Department, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, is hell bent on turning every new highway into a turnpike using borrowed money. On the current projects alone they spend $96 million dollars a year to service those debts and they won't be paid off for another 15 years. Now they want to buy more bonds for more turnpike construction that is not wanted or needed. These are projects to make their mark on history at the expense of the tax payers. The balanced budget amendment of the Oklahoma Constitution means exactly that. We must have a balanced budget. It could even be done without all these tax credits they give to these companies each year, yet there is no discussion of that in the legislature.

  We have come to the conclusion that Oklahoma has enough turnpikes and then some. It's time to shrink government and eliminate the Turnpike authority. It's time to stop the turnpike construction until such time as the Turnpike Authority can save enough money to pay for the cost of construction without the bonds. Governor Fallin kill this idiotic idea. The money would be better spent closing the money gap.

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