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Waste Watch: What Missed Tolls Cost Oklahoma
The quickest way across the state will cost you. Every day thousands of drivers hit the turnpikes that crisscross across Oklahoma. Many use the Pikepass system and prepay for their tolls, but for those that do not there are toll booths that eat up more than just your spare change; they also take time out of your quick trip across the Sooner state.
Whether it is the dreaded delays at the toll booth or just confusion over the toll systems, not every driver obeys the law when it comes to paying for their journey on the turnpikes. The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority says in the last year they logged about 132,000 violations on the turnpikes.
While many of those turn out to be customer-related concerns, the OTA is left with a big bill tracking down the real violators. “At the end you end up with about 47,000 continued offenders,” said Tim Stewart the deputy director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, “Of those 47,000 that's about $2.3 dollars of that outstanding tolls and fees.”
The fees and fines resulting from toll violators add up to about one percent of the OTA’s budget. The OTA compares running tolls to shoplifting. “When you choose to drive our lanes and fail to pay you're robbing from the turnpike authority,” Stewart told Fox 25.
Since the OTA takes no tax money to maintain the roads, that’s millions of dollars they cannot use. Stewart says they do not want fines to be a punishment as much as an incentive. “We prefer to turn these violators into customers, because that's our objective; if we don't make it we can't spend it.”
When the OTA identifies a repeat offender, they do have the authority to put a hold on their license, which means when the driver goes to renew they won’t be allowed to proceed until they pay up. However this does not apply to drivers outside Oklahoma. For those repeat offenders, the OTA employs a collection agency.
The money collected via Pikepass and the toll booths goes to other state agencies. The OTA pays the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for road repairs and has partnered with ODOT to finish major projects. The OTA also pays for about 110 troopers from the Department of Public Safety to patrol the state’s turnpikes.
Critics of the toll roads question why anyone should still have to pay for roads that were constructed decades ago. The turnpike authority says, while the first toll road was authorized in 1947, subsequent projects have added to the debt the state owes.
While the repayment date for the bonds is decades away, the cost for maintaining the turnpikes will not end. The OTA says if Oklahomans ever do want to stop paying tolls, they will still end up paying for the roads one way or another. “You'd have to come up with about 90 million dollars a year from somewhere.”
Posted: Thursday, February 28 2013, 08:00 AM CST
IN OKLAHOMA NEWS
Okla. Legislature honors Moore schools educators
May 23, 2013 22:06 GMT
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- The Oklahoma Legislature is honoring two educators from a school district where a massive tornado destroyed one elementary school and heavily damaged another.
Robert Romines, incoming superintendent of Moore Public Schools, and Shelly McMillin, principal of Briarwood Elementary School, appeared before the Oklahoma House and Senate Thursday.
Their visit comes after a monstrous tornado ripped through Moore on Monday and destroyed the Plaza Towers Elementary School, killing seven third-graders. The same tornado heavily damaged Briarwood.
Romines says the area has witnessed a lot of devastation, but that it will rebuild. He asked lawmakers to pray for strength and wisdom and courage for the community.
Superintendent of Schools Janet Barresi says the Board of Education has agreed to suspend the remainder of Moore's school year and has waived some reporting requirements.
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