Last week the House approved an important bill by State Rep. TW Shannon. His bill is designed to increase funding for county roads and bridges. Two weeks ago I wrote about the recently released 2012 Transportation Update for roads in and near House District 31. This report can be found online at hd31.org/268 where the viewer can review a series of projects for which funding has been programmed.
When reviewing this list, you will notice a series of projects funded through the County Improvement for Roads and Bridges program. CIRB funds are state funds allocated specifically for improving county roads and bridges. This money originates from motor vehicle taxes which are collected when you register your vehicle. County Commissioners must apply for these funds from the Transportation Department and Oklahoma’s Circuit Engineering Districts. The scheduled distribution of the
funds is listed in the CIRB comprehensive five-year plan which you can review at hd31.org/267.
This program was initially developed a few years ago when legislators decided that motor vehicle tax money shouldn’t be diverted for non-road purposes, but should go back to improving county roads. They started a county road and bridge fund and funded that account by placing 5% of motor vehicle tax money into the account each year. That amount has increased over the years and now 15% of the motor vehicle tax money, representing approximately $90 million, goes into the fund.
House District 31 projects programmed for funding under the CIRB program in the upcoming years included Coltrane from Waterloo to Seward, Pine from Waterloo to Simpson, Midwest from Waterloo too No Name, No Name from Midwest to Pine, Luther from Waterloo to Camp, and Charter Oak from Kelly to Broadway. The program is also expected to pick up the cost of completing the necessary engineering for the paving of Charter Oak from Pine to Douglas, Simmons from I-35 to Douglas, and Luther from Camp to State Highway 105.
In addition, this program pays to replace bridges. The fund will replace the Prairie Grove bridge near Meridian, the Forrest Hills bridge east of Kelly, the Otter Creek bridge, Beaver Creek Bridge and
Skeleton Creek Bridge.
If I had a suggestion for improvement for this program, it would be that the bureaucracy that surrounds the program should be streamlined and eliminated. This bureaucracy forces local officials to jump through numerous hoops to achieve funding, and it is only through the hard work of local officials that so much funding has been secured for area roads and bridges. Their time and effort would have been much better spent focusing on paving and maintaining roads, instead of pushing papers through the labyrinth surrounding the program.
Recently, Governor Mary Fallin called on the Legislature to increase funding for the CIRB program. Her proposal was reflected in Shannon’s bill. If enacted, House Bill 2249 would increase the amount going into the fund by another 5% over the next three years. This means the fund should receive an additional $30 million, for a grand total of $120 million per year.
Shannon’s proposal continues the trend of ensuring that motor vehicle funds go to roads instead of being given to the general revenue fund. I have always felt that this should be the case. When someone pays fees to register their vehicles, they have every right to expect that the money will be used to pave roads and build bridges. Numerous constituents have let me know that they share this point of view.
I serve as co author of House Bill 2249 and believe the proposal will go into law later this year.
It is also important to note the effort to replace the aging Seward Road bridge over Interstate 35. This project was originally scheduled for 2014, but has been moved up two years. ODOT conducted a public hearing in 2008 to discuss the project with area residents. A copy of their presentation is available at hd31.org/172. The project will both upgrade the bridge and improve Seward Road on both sides of the new bridge.
State Representative Jason Murphey
2300 North Lincoln Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK 73105
1(405) 557-7350 (Office)