Oklahoma has been able to significantly improve road and bridge conditions and boost highway safety in recent years, largely through increased transportation funding provided from the state legislature since 2005, reversing a decades-long trend of deteriorating roads and bridges and increasing fatalities.
But sustained investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels will be required to continue efforts to improve road and bridge conditions, boost safety, and support long-term economic growth in Oklahoma, according to a new report released by TRIP, a Washington, D.C.-based national transportation organization.
According to the TRIP report, Modernizing Oklahoma’s Transportation System: Progress and Challenges in Providing Safe, Efficient and Well-Maintained Roads, Highways and Bridges, since transportation funding increases were implemented by the state legislature in 2005, Oklahoma has rehabilitated approximately a quarter of state-maintained roads and highways, cut the number of structurally deficient state- maintained bridges in half, and reduced the traffic fatality rate by six percent.
The number of Oklahoma’s state-maintained structurally deficient bridges has been cut in half in recent years as a result of accelerated bridge replacement and rehabilitation efforts that were made possible by additional funding provided by the state legislature.
By 2021 the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) anticipates reducing the number of state-maintained structurally deficient bridges to near zero. A total of 468 of Oklahoma’s 6,800 state-maintained bridges were rated structurally deficient in 2013.
This represents a significant reduction since 2004 when 1,168 state-maintained bridges were structurally deficient.By 2021, the state expects to replace or provide major rehabilitation to 924 state-maintained bridges, reducing the number of state-maintained, structurally deficient bridges to near zero. The state’s overall share of structurally deficient bridges, including locally maintained bridges, dropped from 27 percent in 2006 (the highest share nationally) to 18 percent in 2013 (the fifth highest share nationally).
While pavement conditions on Oklahoma’s state-maintained roads have improved in recent years, the state will continue to face a challenge in maintaining pavement conditions and implementing further modernizations to the highway system. Since 2006, 301 miles of Oklahoma’s 673 miles of Interstate were rehabilitated or reconstructed, and more than 3,000 miles of non-Interstate state roads and highways were resurfaced, rehabilitated or reconstructed. And while 4,600 miles of state-maintained roads currently lack paved shoulders, Oklahoma’s transportation plan calls for improving 567 miles of these two-lane roads (including the addition of paved shoulders) by 2021, making them safer and more efficient. Currently, 11.5 percent of state- maintained roads and highways in Oklahoma have pavements in deficient condition. Without additional or sustained funding, this share is anticipated to increase to 12.2 percent by 2021.
“Transportation infrastructure truly is the veins and arteries of a healthy community’s economic success and quality of life,” said Roy H. Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “Oklahoma has certainly made significant progress in improving its transportation systems, but we need the support of the state, the Federal government and our local communities to continue this forward momentum. The future of our state depends upon it.”
While Oklahoma has made significant safety improvements to its roadways in recent years, the state’s traffic fatality rate is still significantly higher than the national average. Oklahoma’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.48 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2012 is 31 percent higher than the national average of 1.13. The traffic fatality rate in Oklahoma declined from 1.57 in 2006 to 1.48 fatalities in 2012 – a six percent decrease. Since 2006, 635 miles of cable median barriers have been completed or are under construction on Oklahoma’s divided high-speed roads, dramatically reducing the number of fatalities resulting from crossover collisions. From 2007 to 2012, the number of fatalities due to crossover collisions in Oklahoma dropped from 39 to six.
Currently, nearly a third – 31 percent – of miles of state-maintained highways in Oklahoma (3,862 of 12,265 miles) are rated as either critical or inadequate for safety, based on an evaluation of safety features such as passing opportunities, adequate sight distances, existence of paved shoulders, recovery areas for errant vehicles and the severity of hills and curves. By 2021, the miles of state-maintained highways in Oklahoma that are rated either critical or inadequate for safety are anticipated to be reduced from 3,862 to 3,680.
“Oklahoma’s legislature stepped up to the plate to provide funding that was instrumental in improving road and bridge conditions and implementing safety features that are saving numerous lives,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “In order for the state to continue its efforts towards a modern, well-maintained and safe transportation system, funding must be sustained at the local, state and federal levels. The quality of life of the state’s residents and the health of Oklahoma’s economy are riding on it.”