Washington, DC - Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and Transportation Secretary Mike Patterson: “Trump’s infrastructure plan brings needed attention for improvements”.
Infrastructure improvement is a priority issue because of its direct impact on economic growth and stability as well as the safety and well-being of our citizens. As governor and as Oklahoma’s secretary of transportation, we support the Trump administration’s infrastructure proposal for starting the dialogue about the need for these improvements.
The proposal calls for $200 billion in federal spending nationwide to help generate at least $1.5 trillion in new investment from state, local and private sources. This plan will allow Oklahoma to continue to prioritize infrastructure projects.
In 2011, at the beginning of the Fallin administration, 706 of Oklahoma’s 6,800 highway bridges were rated structurally deficient. That number will be reduced to 187 at the end of 2017, with the remaining structurally deficient bridges programmed in the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s eight-year construction work plan to be addressed by the end of the decade.
While traditional transportation needs like roads, bridges, mass transit, railroads, waterways and airports are a major part of the proposal, the Trump plan also includes support for broadband internet, water and power systems, public lands, and veterans hospitals, which are valuable pieces of the nation’s infrastructure system used by Oklahomans every day.
One highlight of the Trump administration’s plan that will benefit states like Oklahoma is that 25 percent of the direct federal funding, about $50 billion, will be set aside for rural projects in cities and towns with a population of 50,000 or less. This will give our state a better opportunity to prioritize rural communities’ needs, and make the state eligible to compete for federal grants to help fund major projects. We look forward to the opportunity to compete for these grants, especially upgrades to major travel and trucking corridors like Interstates 35 and 40 and U.S. 69, and improvements to our inland ports and waterway transportation system in eastern Oklahoma.
The proposal also includes major regulatory reforms to help expedite the project review and permitting process, which will help get projects approved and under construction much quicker.
A good transportation system helps students get to school and supports our economy by allowing farmers to get their crops to market and the energy industry to move equipment and products across the state. Infrastructure improvements can help spur new economic opportunities. Recent partnerships between ODOT, tribal governments and private industries to construct new interstate interchanges in Thackerville and El Reno improved access and attracted additional investment to these areas.
Again, Oklahoma has put additional resources toward upgrading the state’s infrastructure. Oklahoma’s transportation system has greatly improved in the last seven years, thanks to additional, dedicated state funding prioritized by the Fallin administration and the Legislature. For decades, Oklahoma relied entirely on federal funds for its highway construction program. Today, ODOT’s eight-year plan is more evenly balanced with federal and state funds.
Our state is in a great position to take advantage of the federal funding made available in the administration’s proposal to continue to make critical transportation improvements. There is a bipartisan consensus that something must be done to address our nation’s infrastructure system, and that it must start with a strong commitment from the federal government. We commend the Trump administration for its efforts to reinvest in the nation’s infrastructure so that it will continue to meet the demands of our country’s 21st century trade and commerce.
Mary Fallin is governor of Oklahoma. Mike Patterson is Oklahoma secretary of transportation.