OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – It was the usual throng of suits and ties at Tuesday’s monthly Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) meeting, but this time they were joined by a flock of Oklahomans to make their presence felt and their disdain for the Access Oklahoma plan clearly known.
Some wore wear to express their rage, particularly over one agenda item in particular: approval of the OTA’s Right-Of-Way anticipated process for land acquisition and utility relocation policies.
“The idea that the state or some, even an unelected agency can come in and just take your homes and you have no say or very little impact on the results of it is just it’s immoral,” said local resident Moira McCabe.
“If you’re going to make a turnpike, why wouldn’t you pick the one at least resistance? Why would you not pick something that has less homes and makes more sense?”
Professional civil engineer and OU professor Amy Cerato stood before the board Tuesday morning arguing that there was no sound engineering for the proposed routes – particularly the southern extension and east-west extension through Norman – that have been touted to potentially eliminate truck traffic while lessening travel time for commuters.
“Why these routes?,” she said, referring to a wide range of economic, environmental and geological destruction the current routes could cause, including decimating “long-range water, land use and transportation planning.”
“Norman citizens would not use these turnpikes from Dallas to Tulsa. [They] would also not utilizes the tollway, because it adds time and miles to their route.”
“The traffic growth projections in and around Norman were wrong in the nineties and they are wrong now,” she added, referring to justifications from previous highway expansion projects.
Transportation Secretary Tim Gantz also joined the meeting Tuesday, asserting that the time, money and land projected to be used by the transportation system would be a necessary and long-term solution to growing pains in the region, while saying many of the proposed routes in their projections that could be affected by right-of-way land acquisition and planning were included to “begin the discussion”, but were not etched in stone.
“There’s a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done before we ever get to the point where we’re ready to acquire [by] right-of-way,” he said, adding that more data and studies are anticipated before final decisions will be made.
“That’s part of giving us the level of resources that we’re going to need to make good decisions,” he said.
The OTA says they are preparing additional opportunities to connect with the community and to hear more on public concerns with planned meetings throughout the month of April. The first meeting will occur at Noble High School in Noble on April 14 at 6p.m. The full list can be viewed here.
Oklahomans who oppose the turnpike expansion plan are gathering support with a letter and petition they hope to present next week in a planned meeting to the Council of Bond Oversight, asking them to decline the OTA’s request for interim financing for the Access Oklahoma program, until those additional impact studies are completed.