OKC’s growing population justifies toll highway investments

As the first Oklahoman to simultaneously assume the dual roles of secretary of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and executive director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, my perspective on toll highways is uniquely holistic from a overall transport system.

Everyone wants good, safe roads from point A as they exit their driveway to point B as they arrive at their destination. One of our accomplishments during my tenure was that Department of Transportation engineers designed and innovated the “Briffin Barrier,” the first high-voltage median barrier that became the national standard and saved thousands of lives. . Oklahomans innovated this!

After driving on city and county roads, a driver reaches highways and highways built and maintained by the Department of Transportation. Department of Transportation funds for ongoing road maintenance are limited by state appropriations and financial structures. During the 1980s and 1990s, as local roads and national highways became congested, creating deterioration at a rapid rate, limits on Department of Transportation funding could not keep up with maintenance. Where was the traffic supposed to go?

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Therefore, urban toll highways have become necessary to ensure good and safe roads. The Kilpatrick Turnpike in Oklahoma City and the Creek Turnpike in Tulsa were built to relieve congestion on state highways, freeways, county roads, and city roads.

Transport officials must always plan 15 to 30 years ahead for the growth in population and the traffic congestion it will cause today on current roads. When Mercy Hospital opened in 1974 on Memorial Road, 17 years passed before offering residents a high quality, fast and safe route to the hospital when the Kilpatrick Turnpike opened in September 1991 At the time, demographic trends pointed to the town north of Oklahoma City, validating the need for a hospital. The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has kept up with and responded to growing population and traffic needs with quick and safe access to the hospital. It’s not a chicken or egg scenario. The need was well justified.

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The authority resolves issues that the Department of Transportation is unable to resolve due to funding limitations. Recently, Oklahoma City was named the 20th largest city in the United States by the US Census Bureau. This demographic growth of the city impacts the entire metropolitan area. Vital transit corridors as they exist today will become obsolete, eroded and congested due to population growth. This is a perfect problem for the toll highway authority to solve, before roads and traffic become problematic.

I had the honor of serving two Governors of Oklahoma to guide and develop the state’s transportation system to ensure that toll highways are a solution where public funding is not available or feasible. to ensure good and safe roads. Thirty years later, toll roads, interstates, and state highways are working together as intended to provide better access to hospitals, communities, and other destinations on good, safe roads for Oklahomans.

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Neal McCaleb

Neal McCaleb served as secretary of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and executive director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.