CLEVELAND COUNTY, Okla. (KFOR) – A new chapter in the battle about the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s (OTA) expansion plan unfolded Monday afternoon as the OTA and a legal team representing more than 200 property owners squared off in a Cleveland County court room.
“Today is a big deal,” said Dave Moore, an organizer and volunteer for Pike Off OTA. “Everybody in transportation in the whole country is watching what’s happening in Oklahoma right now.”
The $5 billion, 15-year-long Access Oklahoma Plan would put a new turnpike along Indian Hills Road and connect Newcastle to Norman. Part of the plan is to also extend the Kickapoo Turnpike west of Lake Thunderbird, essentially connecting the Kickapoo Turnpike to Purcell.
The OTA has said the project will help with congestion on Interstate 35.
However, residents against the OTA’s plan filed a lawsuit in May claiming the agency violated the state’s Open Meeting Act. It alleges the OTA failed to inform the public about the intended routes of the meeting agendas in January and February of this year.
“They wanted to keep it under wraps,” said Stan Ward, the attorney for the property owners against the plan. “They made that very clear.”
The lawsuit added that the OTA “played games with the agendas.”
During Ward’s arguments in the courtroom Monday, he said the agenda items were “materially obscure and deceptively worded.”
One of his examples was item 884 from the Jan. 25 meeting. It discussed finances for “certain turnpike projects,” but was not specific about what those “certain turnpike projects” were.
Monday’s hearing lasted for about three hours.
The attorney representing the OTA declined an interview. However, a spokeswoman for the agency sent KFOR the following statement:
The OTA appreciates Judge Olsen for hearing our motion for summary judgment. As explained in our motion, we firmly believe there has been no violation of the Open Meeting Act — despite claims and numerous attempts to deflect from the Act’s requirements by those opposing a turnpike in the Norman area. We look forward to the court’s ruling on this matter.Jessica Brown, Director Strategic Communications Division, Oklahoma Transportation Cabinet
The judge did not make a decision Monday, but said he plans to early next week.