OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Council of Bond Oversight approved $500 million in revenue bonds for financing ACCESS Oklahoma turnpike expansions projects.
“This action allows the OTA to move forward with plans to enhance travel on existing toll roads, including widening the John Kilpatrick, Turner and Will Rogers turnpikes; extending the new Gilcrease Expressway Turnpike to the north; building additional access points; and enhancing interchanges along turnpikes,” an Oklahoma Turnpike Authority news release states.
OTA officials will continue working on a preliminary engineering design and environmental surveys in cooperation with regulatory agencies to determine the Outer Loop alignments and the South Extension Turnpike’s feasibility, according to OTA officials.
The Council of Bond Oversight currently has four members and one vacancy. All four members voted to approve revenue bonds for the expansions, subject to the following recommended conditions:
(i) receipt of the Preliminary Official Statement prior to pricing of the obligations;
(ii) receipt of the form of the bond counsel opinion prior to pricing;
(iii) receipt of the Final Official Statement prior to closing;
(iv) receipt and approval of the Fee Approval Form (BO-8) prior to closing;
(v) resolution or dismissal of the following litigation in favor of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority: Case No. CV-2022-1692 (Pike Off OTA, Inc., et al v. Oklahoma Turnpike Authority) and Cleveland County Case No. CV-2022-1905 (Hirschfield et al. v. Oklahoma Turnpike Authority); and
(vi) receipt of evidence of validation by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
With the Council’s approval procured, OTA can now file an application with the Oklahoma Supreme Court for validation of the bonds. State statute Title 69-1718 says the Supreme Court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear validation actions.
OTA officials will file the application as early as Wednesday.
The agency routinely uses revenue bonds to finance large construction projects.
“The validation action gives all persons interested in the matter an opportunity to be heard, present legal opposition against the issuance of the bonds, and ensures the Authority has the legal authorization to undertake the projects to be financed by the bonds, thereby providing certainty for all involved,” the news release states.
Many Norman residents, as well as community members in surrounding areas, have railed against OTA’s recent turnpike expansion efforts, saying the expansion will displace them from their homes and disrupt their lives.
Turnpike expansion opponents have formed an opposition group called Pike Off OTA.
Lawsuits have been filed to stop the expansion.
Rob Norman, lawyer for one of the lawsuits, said the Bond Council approving the $500 million in revenue bonds is not a setback.
“Our plan is to continue to vigorously pursue full and fair litigation in opposition to these turnpikes, and to vindicate the legal rights of all citizens who are impacted. We remain confident that we will prevail on the merits,” Norman said.
On the other hand, residents from Davenport, a town that sits along U.S. Highway 66 (Route 66), east of Chandler, in Lincoln County, recently told KFOR that the expansion will inject life into their community.