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Oklahoma Turnpike Authority puts ACCESS on pause after lawsuit loss

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has now lost two recent court decisions regarding the $5 billion ACCESS Oklahoma turnpike project. And in response, the agency is tapping the brakes on the project.

Earlier this month, a district court ruled the OTA had violated the state’s Open Meeting Act because it used vague wording in agendas for meetings that authorized the ACCESS project.

But the OTA argued to the state Supreme Court that it, rather than the district court, should make that call. Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled it didn’t agree and let the district court’s decision stand.

The ACCESS Oklahoma project was announced following the Feb. 22 OTA board meeting. The project would construct new turnpike extensions in Oklahoma and Cleveland Counties, among others, some of which are estimated to force over 600 homeowners out of their properties — though the OTA said this number is closer to 200.

The district court’s decision invalidated the ACCESS-related actions taken during the meetings in question, which amounts to about $69 million in engineering contracts for the project.

The OTA will have to go back to the drawing board to re-vote on the ACCESS project approvals. Wednesday, the agency sent out a mass email saying it would be halting all contract work on all ACCESS projects until the re-vote.

But while ACCESS has hit a stumbling block for now, the OTA said it will “move in a deliberate and thoughtful manner, in compliance with the Court’s decision, to progress ACCESS Oklahoma.”

Beth Wallis is StateImpact Oklahoma's education reporter.
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