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Waste Watch: Where Are The Weigh Stations?
Four years ago Oklahoma taxpayers were sold a promise. A $61 million investment into a six year plan would result in nine new state-of-the-art Ports of Entry, a replacement to the aging and often dilapidated weigh stations along Oklahoma’s interstates.
“The facilities we have right now are old and outdated,” said Brooks Mitchell the former director of administration for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.
The Corporation Commission is responsible for running the weigh stations which are a safety hazard themselves. “The ramps aren't long enough to pull the trucks over and you don't have the right facilities to have a crew in there.”
And for every weigh station that closed, it meant more freedom for anyone wanting to haul illegal loads across Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Trucking Association says it is well known among truckers when the weigh stations are open and how easy it is to bypass the system.
Overweight trucks cause damage to Oklahoma’s roads. In some cases the excessive weight causes interstates to deteriorate faster than projected. That adds millions to the cost of repairing and replacing roads and bridges.
In 2008 the Corporation Commission announced a joint venture with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. New weigh stations would put an end to the joke Oklahoma’s weight rules had become.
Now Oklahoma is more than halfway through the projected timeline and has spent nearly $30 million, but the state is not close to being halfway finished with the project. We wanted to know, where are the weigh stations we were promised?
“We're waiting on the funding to generate for what is now going to be nine locations,” said Gary Evans the Chief Engineer and Deputy Director for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
Waiting on money isn’t the only setback. The cost of the $61 million project has skyrocketed. “Currently the cost for all 9 facilities is $99 million,” Evans told Fox 25.
Once Oklahoma built the first weigh station in Kay County, ODOT realized the cost for constructing the facilities was much more than what they predicted. “I think the estimates were based on a facility we had not even designed yet at the time.”
Right now, ODOT has only completed two new ports of entry. One is in Kay County; the other is in Beckham County. However, neither of the new weigh stations is operating 24 hours a day. That means the millions already spent has done little to close our borders to truckers who want to break the law.
In addition the stations are also lacking most of the new technology promised four years ago. A contract dispute led to a delay in installing some of the technology. However some of the technology that was promised doesn’t even exist yet. ODOT says they hope once the technology is developed they will be able to scan brakes and tires on the fly, allowing speedy detection or problems without slowing down trucks.
While there were mistakes with the cost projections and bumps along the road in acquiring technology and property for the weigh stations, ultimately the fault of missing weigh stations doesn’t lie with ODOT or the corporation commission.
It was the legislature that denied a bond measure back in 2008 that forced ODOT into the current funding formula. Not only that, but lawmakers failed to appropriate the funds needed to complete the project. “I think originally it was envisioned that $9 million a year would be invested in this cause and then again it ended up being a $6 million investment,” said Evans. Right now ODOT collects $500,000 a month.
Once enough money accumulates it is spent on the next piece of the project. Put the slow pace means once again Oklahoma’s will continue down the road to ruin for decades more. “That funding would be provided through December of 2022 so it will be quite some time before the funding is available to build all nine locations,” Evans said.
“The sooner we can get these things built and operational the sooner we can protect the investment we've made in our roads and bridges,” said Mitchell. He fought for a bond measure and says it’s not too late for lawmakers to act. However capitol sources tell us it’s unlikely any bond measure would make it through this session.
Mitchell, who is also a certified public accountant, says borrowing money can be risky, but in the case of weigh stations it would actually save us money. “The longer it goes, the more likely the construction costs will increase you'll have other cost increases that aren't anticipated today.”
Mitchell says with low interest rates, the cost to borrow money would likely be far less than the increased cost of construction. And a bond measure would not have to be paid back through the general fund since the Corporation Commission already has a dedicated funding source.
Though we will likely have to wait years, maybe decades before we see that promise fulfilled, both ODOT and the Corporation Commission say the new ports of entry are being built to last for future generations and the agencies hope that it will be another 70 or 80 years before we’ll have to look at building new stations.
Posted: Wednesday, February 13 2013, 10:18 PM CST
IN OKLAHOMA NEWS
Tornado watch issued for western, central Oklahoma
May 18, 2013 22:57 GMT
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A tornado watch is in effect for western and central Oklahoma.
The weather system brought severe thunderstorms to the Altus and Clinton areas, as well as Harper County late Saturday afternoon. There were no reports of rotation as evening approached but the tornado watch lasts until 11 p.m. Saturday.
The dangerous weather is forecast to continue into Sunday night as the system progresses to the east.
The tornado watch area Saturday stretched from eastern edge of the Panhandle to include the Oklahoma City area.
Forecasters warn that the system could also bring large hail.
The National Weather Service in Norman reports tennis ball-size hail along U.S. 62 near the border of Harmon and Jackson counties in the state's far southwest.
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