OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce showed its support for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, despite recent pushback from citizens in the pat of the proposed toll roads.
The Chamber held a forum Wednesday at Bancfirst Tower to let business owners question Department of Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz about ACCESS Oklahoma and the plan’s benefits.
The $5 billion, 15-year-plan has been on hold while it goes through the appellate process at the Oklahoma Supreme Court, for possible violations with the Open Meetings Act.
Mark VanLandingham, the Chambers senior vice president, said the idea has positive impacts for safer roadways and economic possibilities. He said the plan was much more than just turnpikes. It would also give the state an opportunity to get ahead of its booming population.
“Oklahoma City is now the 20th largest city in the country,” said VanLandingham. “We’re also one of the 10 or 12 fastest growing states in the country, cities in the country. We’ve got to build a transportation system that is ready for the future and the future growth.”
Dave Moore was one of several anti-turnpike demonstrators who stood outside the Bancfirst Tower Wednesday, holding signs and airing out frustrations with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
“Anywhere from 600 to 800 homes would be destroyed and people were kicked off of their private property,” said Moore.
However, the Department of Transportation said that number is exaggerated, with a maximum of 200 homes impacted.
The Chamber said its members wanted to be educated on the proposed plans and the forum had been planned eight weeks in advance.
“We think this will move the state forward,” said VanLandingham. “It will be better for all of the citizens and for all of the companies who rely on a safe transportation system.”
VanLandingham also said Secretary Gatz spoke about the state audit during Wednesday’s forum and once again welcomed the audit. Gatz told News 4 the agency wanted to be as transparent as possible. Moore questioned why chamber members would want to get involved in an agency wrapped up in scandal.
“Someone who’s being investigated by the state auditor? Does that sound like a good business idea?” said Moore. “I’m saying it’s not. It’s bad for business.”
On March 15th, the attorney general asked state auditor to do an investigative audit of the OTA and the agencies relationship with the Department of Transportation.