Logan County washed out roads causing growing headache for rural residents

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LOGAN COUNTY, Okla. - April rains are making a bad problem worse, washing out roads around the state. In one particular spot of concern in Logan County, the road becomes a small pool after rains, and residents want to know why it hasn't been fixed.

Bobbie Castle said the stretch of county road on Forrest Hills Road between Broadway and Western has been pretty bad for the past five years, but in the past two years has hit a new low.

"It`s horrible," she said. "Major mud holes that are getting deeper. We have no ditches. We have no way for the water to leave our roads."

Days after the rain, the giant puddle remains, but just after the rain she said it's impassable without a big truck.

"At one point driving through it it was almost up to the doors on my truck," she said.

This isn't the only problem area in Logan County, and commissioners are aware.

"The biggest issue we’ve had over the past couple of years is the different weather, where we’ve had all the rain," said District 1 Commissioner Marven Goodman. He said increased rain levels have caused roads to deteriorate faster than they would usually.

But another big problem is there simply isn't enough funding for road maintenance to go around. Goodman explained that that funding doesn't come from property taxes paid by residents, but by various sales or excise taxes, like the gas or diesel tax. Furthermore, he points out that it's up to the state to decide who gets how much of those taxes based on what he called a "convoluted formula."

"It’s very difficult for anybody to understand how Logan County is given x-dollars, and another county, like Oklahoma County, is given more dollars," Goodman said. That's because with 1,200 county miles, Logan County has more miles of road than its larger neighbor, yet it only gets about half of the $5,000-6,000 per mile needed to maintain a typical dirt road.

"So now we have to prioritize based on population density, traffic counts, things like that," Goodman said. Much of the money allotted goes to growing areas, like South Logan County, while other rural, less populous areas see a slower response. Also, the way the county road maintenance process is set up, money is allocated to areas based on need, rather than a rotating schedule that would address every road in sequence.

Goodman also said the situation worsened when the legislature diverted $230 million from the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges Program in 2015.

"That money came out of our plan that was already programmed, so we actually had to cancel plans," Goodman said, "and cancel projects all over the state, not just here in Logan County."

Residents who live near Forrest Hills Road and Broadway said a lot of the issues seem to come from pipeline company trucks using the roads.

Goodman acknowledged this was an issue as well, but said the companies are only held accountable to the Corporation Commission, and it's can't be made to maintain the roads by the county.

"The Corporation Commission is the one telling the county commissioners we can’t do anything about it," Goodman said.

Castle said people have tried to explain to her the issues the county is facing before, but it doesn't change the fact that she's sometimes forced to drive miles out of the way just to get a mile down the road.

"Just a little help from anybody so that we’re able to get to and from town having to worry whether we’re going to make it to town or not," Castle said.

While he understands the frustration, Goodman said what's really needed is the attention of the state legislators.

"We can’t change the situation we have today. Our job is to do the best with what we’ve got," Goodman said. "What we need is for the people that live here to focus on helping out leaders, our political leaders, understand the problem."

Goodman also said that the best way to get your road addressed is to fill out a form on the Logan County website, and to leave contact information so that county officials can figure out exactly what needs to be fixed.

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