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I-40 Crosstown Project at Risk if Feds Cut Highway Budget (Jul 12, 2011)

(eCap) Oklahoma Transportation Secretary and Department of Transportation Director Gary Ridley said Monday that the state's eight-year construction work program could lose between $176 million and $204 million in annual federal transportation funding if a deal currently working its way through Congress is approved.

Oklahoma receives roughly $550 million to $600 million in federal transportation funding each year. A new six-year funding package proposed by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., would cut funding for all states by one-third. The total package is worth roughly $230 billion over six years, or about $35 million annually.

If the proposal passes, Ridley said the state will have to make major modifications to its eight-year construction work program. The problem, he said, is that the Mica proposal would tie transportation funding to oil and gas taxes, which would reduce the amount of available funding. And, the resulting reduction could be damaging.

While contract lettings would continue as normal through October, Ridley said that everything from the November letting forward gets less and less clear. The total annual reduction would be carried out over the course of ODOT's entire eight-year plan, which lays out $4.2 billion in spending over that time. The reduction in funding over that time could reach as much as $1.6 billion.

"When you talk about these kind of numbers, I think everything is at risk," Ridley said.

Congressional Democrats, who are calling for a more robust $286 billion package, have expressed fears about the loss of jobs. The American Public Transportation Association claims that a one-third reduction in transportation funding would cause the loss of around 140,000 jobs nationwide.

And, the loss of federal funding could be exacerbated by a recent reduction in state transportation funding. Ridley said ODOT received about $420 million in state funding for state fiscal year 2012, a reduction of about $30 million.

Ridley also said that he and U.S. Sen. James Inhofe are working to come up with a better solution.

Ridley has made himself available to testify. He indicated that Inhofe may call him to Washington D.C. for a U.S. Senate hearing on Thursday, July 28.



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