Oklahoma DOT Outlines Operations, Project Impact as Agencies Face Revenue Shortfall

AASHTO Journal, 8 January 2016

With Oklahoma budget revenues coming in below projections as news reports cite the impact of falling energy prices in the oil-rich state, agencies including the Department of Transportation are absorbing just-ordered spending cuts.

The Office of Management and Enterprise Services on Dec. 23 declared a “revenue failure for the current fiscal year, and said all state agencies starting this month will see their general revenue allocations cut by 3 percent.

ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson reported Jan. 4 to the Oklahoma Transportation Commission that the revenue failure will cut $13.2 million from ODOT’s budget for future construction projects under its eight-year construction plan. However, he said the cut will not impact ongoing construction projects.

“Due to these state budget challenges, we are looking at reductions that will likely have a negative impact on highway construction spending. This means some projects in the eight-year plan will be postponed, though we don’t know which ones at this point,” Patterson said.

“At the same time, we will have to increase spending on maintenance and asset preservation just to keep the highways in the condition they are now.”

In addition, Patterson said the agency is implementing a plan to curb out-of-state travel, delay replacement of vehicles, equipment and outdated facilities and leave vacant positions unfilled. That will generate $3.9 million in savings to be reallocated to highway maintenance.

The cuts come as recent winter storms and heavy rainfall have taken a toll on the state’s highways, ODOT said, and caused the agency to spend more. Patterson said ODOT spent $1.6 million responding to storms in December alone.

“As winter continues, the cycle of repeated freezing and thawing will cause additional stress to highway pavements, resulting in more surface damage and potholes,” ODOT said. “Several highways also remain closed due to high water in parts of southern and eastern Oklahoma. Once floodwaters recede, ODOT crews will assess the damage and determine the extent of repairs needed.”

The 3 percent budget cut may not be the end of the state’s belt-tightening efforts. The AP and other news agencies reported that if oil and gas prices remain around recent lows Oklahoma would face a $900 million budget gap for the next fiscal year that begins July 1.

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