OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There are new developments related to a lawsuit against the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority for planned construction in its Access Oklahoma project, the projected $5 billion, 15-year-long-range turnpike expansion project announced in February of this year.

A lawsuit challenging the legality of the bonds filed in May by grassroots group Pike Off OTA against the agency landed in the Oklahoma Supreme Court after the transportation agency filed an application with the Oklahoma Supreme Court for the approval of its first bond issue, not to exceed $500 million dollars.

A newly filed order Tuesday is asking for supplemental briefs from the parties on two core legal issues in preparation for an oral argument before the Oklahoma Supreme Court justices later this month.

“There has been a round of briefs from the parties already. There has been argument before a referee already, now the supreme court has asked for additional information,” said the lawyer for Pike Off OTA, Rob Norman, saying the request pertains to two of the core legal issues in the case.

“[One issue is ]I f there is legislative authorization for the South Extension – The East West Connector and the Tri-City Connector – that go through Cleveland County and parts of Norman,” he added in an interview Friday with KFOR.

“They’ve also asked for legal briefing from the parties on bonding and building restrictions  that go beyond whether a turnpike was originally, legally authorized. Our contention is that those bonding and building restrictions would apply to the East West Connector and the Tri- City Connector [and ] that those bonding and building statutes don’t allow the OTA to build the East West Connector and the Tri-City Connector,” he added.

Norman stated that if the OTA wins, they will have legal authority to issue bonds for the building of new turnpikes in the Access Oklahoma program, as well as other projects related to the program.

Alternatively, if the plaintiffs will, the OTA will not be authorized to issue bonds for the turnpikes.

“Our contention is they won’t be able to build the turnpikes if we prevail in the Supreme Court Case,” he said.

Norman said the upcoming hearing is a rare opportunity where the parties are actually doing the oral arguments before the justices themselves.

“Everyone thinks this is a good and needed opportunity Here the justices have decided they want to see more briefs and hear more from each side on both the OTA’s position and the legal challenges [and] we feel the Supreme Court is doing a good and welcome thing of giving all parties a fair and welcome things of giving all parties a fair chance for their day in court,” he said.

Tassie Hirschfeld, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said based on her research, there is overwhelming evidence that the turnpikes were never authorized by the state legislature.

“There’s actually evidence of this in [OTA’s] own documents in their 2021 financial report,” she said.

“They list all of the term terms and then they list when they were authorized by the state legislature, except for the Kickapoo where they say it was authorized by the board, by their board [but] the board does not have that power. All of the turnpikes must be authorized by the legislature. They just decided they didn’t have to follow that rule. And I’m very hopeful and optimistic that they’re going to learn the hard way that you do have to follow that rule,” added Hirschfeld.

“It’s not that we’re anti transportation or anti-development, but the process matters [and] people should not be able to take your home without following due process,” she continued.

“I am very confident that all the evidence supports our case [while] their case consists of their attorneys saying we get to do whatever we want. We can put a turnpike wherever we want, and nobody has the right to impose any restrictions, and I think that rubs everybody in Oklahoma the wrong way.”

In a statement to KFOR, the OTA said they are “supportive of the [Supreme Court’s] process to ultimately provide clarity on the issue.”

The order requires that the lawyers for both sides file their written arguments no later than November 18th.

Both sides are set to go before the Supreme Court for oral arguments during a bond validation hearing on November 28 to determine if the transportation agency can issue the bonds and move forward with construction.