The state’s proposed extension of the Kilpatrick Turnpike is currently on hold until a court battle challenging the turnpike authority’s bonding authority is resolved.
“At this time, pretty much all activity is on hold pending the outcome of the litigation in the State Supreme Court,” said Jack Damrill of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
The director of communications & facilities referred to the lawsuit filed Aug. 19 by Oklahoma City attorney Jerry R. Fent. In this case, Fent alleges the authority’s is violating a constitutional provision against logrolling by combining financing for four proposed turnpike projects as part of their “Driving Forward” initiative totaling $480
In 2009, Fent prevailed in a state Supreme Court challenge of a bill that lumped Capitol building improvements together with other projects in a bond package.
This time, Fent reports he was contacted by concerned eastern Oklahoma County residents, where one of the four turnpike projects is slated. Just like many other property owners impacted by the projects, they are concerned their property will be lost through eminent domain to make way for the new roadways.
“There is not much to report,” Damrill said. “Once the court comes back with a decision on validation of our bond sale, we will continue the right-of-way negotiations and the design work.”
“We do not have a time table on any of that.”
According to court records, the Supreme Court currently has no upcoming hear dates and the last activity on the case was in early October. The OTA has requested a 12 percent rate hike to cover the new bonds for the turnpike projects.
Despite the opposition, the OTA is standing behind their Driving Forward campaign.
Director Tim Gatz said, “Interstate volumes are not going to decrease. They’re just not. We probably should have started some of these reliever route projects 10 years ago, 15 years ago.”
“We realize that those aren’t houses, they’re families,” Gatz said. “We’re asking them to make an extreme sacrifice… This is what we have to do. We’ve got to continue to make these kinds of investments and be forward-thinking.”
For more information on the turnpike projects, visit www.drivingforwardok.com.