Oklahoma City – Oklahoma Turnpike Authority Executive Director Tim Guts is increasingly facing questions from lawmakers and the public about how his agency spends its money.
At a recent meeting at the State Capitol, Guts and other agency heads attempted to explain why tolls were rising and maintenance costs were drying up.
Guts told members of the OTA board on Friday morning that he had spoken to lawmakers earlier this week during an interim inquiry into the OTA.
“Some of the data presented were very much characterized as misrepresentations, misrepresentations, and some glaring errors,” Guts said of the interim study. We must continue to work to rectify these occurrences as much as possible.”
Members of Congress were asking why one-third of agency spending is on bond debt, and how much of that total goes to interest payments.
OTA Deputy Director Joe Echelle said interest rates on bond issuances, which average about 3%, are well below what OTAs would lose due to rising inflation if OTAs financed construction projects from savings. rice field. Eschel said the bond issuance will allow agencies to move faster.
At its meeting on Friday, the OTA board approved a two-year deal that will spend $487,000 in sponsorship deals with Sooner Sports Properties LLC, Cowboy Sports Properties LLC and Golden Hurricane Sports Properties LLC for marketing purposes.
Randy Carter, who also serves as director of strategic communications for Pike Off OTA, an organization opposing plans to expand the current Turnpike system, questioned the spending.
Mr. Carter asked the board to explain the benefits of spending nearly $500,000 on “radio advertising,” and asked whether the board had information about the expected return on investment for that spending. I asked
“I think this is really a very important thing that we do because we do so many things. One of our very important missions is to: It’s about telling the public as much as possible so they can stay healthy.
The agency is working to inform drivers that a new cashless system has been implemented, including an app that allows drivers without PikePass to pay with alternative methods. .
The agency is working on a project to convert all toll booths to a cashless system, with license plate reading technology for those who don’t have a PikePass. The PikePass system has also been upgraded to be compatible with other states. States have already signed agreements to allow PikePass to be used in Texas and Kansas.
Tolls have increased accordingly. Turner Turnpike tolls will rise annually from $4.50 for passenger cars today to $5.25 in 2025, eventually reaching $9.40 in 2026.
“It has nothing to do with us trying to make more money,” Echel told lawmakers. “The cost of collecting that money is with us. I think the stamp is 58 cents, but he would have to mail three bills to receive that payment.”
OTA postage has jumped from $3 million to $8 million in the past year. This is because more toll collection is handled through the new system.
At Friday’s meeting, Carter also noted that maintenance costs have been cut by almost 50%.
Gatz said the Turner Turnpike is 70 years old and the subsurface portion of the road will need to be reworked. OTA is unique nationally in that it “has a general engineering consultant who represents bondholders” and ensures the roads are properly maintained.
“Our maintenance contingencies have been reduced as our network has improved,” said Gatz.
OTA board members were informed that while toll revenues increased by 4.3% this year, operating costs are 10.6% below budget.
Lawmakers say 40% of revenues collected on toll roads will come from out-of-state drivers, reaching a total of $135 million in 2021, and 38% of revenues will come from commercial carriers. I was informed there is.