Norman, Ok April 12, 2023–Pike OFF OTA is encouraged by the announcement that the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has finally decided to stop work on the ACCESS Oklahoma program. It is neither lawful nor appropriate for the OTA to continue to work on the legally unauthorized East West Connector, South Extension, or Tri-City Connector proposed new turnpike routes. Pike Off OTA has never been opposed to the lawful, financially responsible pursuit of maintaining and improving existing turnpike projects.
To the extent the OTA may currently have a problem with funding maintenance and improvements on existing turnpikes, the OTA has brought this problem on itself. The OTA has willfully failed and refused to comply with the Open Meeting Act. It has also failed and refused to provide the Council of Bond Oversight, the Courts, or the Citizens of Oklahoma with any meaningful disclosure of how ACCESS Oklahoma bond issues would be allocated to improvements on existing turnpikes, as opposed to building these new turnpike routes that are not legally allowed under the Turnpike Enabling Act.
Instead, the OTA has chosen to continue to obscure their financial and business practices by inappropriately insisting on bundling maintenance, safety and improvement projects on their existing turnpikes with three legally unauthorized, contested, and unnecessary new turnpike routes. This $5 billion, all-or-nothing approach has been an exercise in questionable judgment and lack of transparency from the beginning. If the OTA is truly putting the safety of its patrons first, why has the OTA prioritized the pursuit of questionable, contested new alignments over much needed maintenance and improvement obligations on existing toll roads?
It is very disturbing to hear that the OTA apparently cannot pay for the safety and improvement of its existing toll roads without taking on billions of dollars in additional debt through the bond market. As Attorney General Gentner Drummond has stated, this calls into question the leadership and cash flow management of the OTA.
We are looking forward to what the State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd’s investigative audit may reveal about the OTA. It is time for all Oklahomans to insist on transparency, accountability, and lawful conduct from our government agencies.
President of Pike Off OTA
View the official statements from Pike Off OTA and Attorney General Gentner Drummond on the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority pausing Access Oklahoma below: