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Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to halt work on ACCESS projects

Oklahoma Turnpike Authority
The H. E. Bailey Turnpike.

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is running into a major roadblock on its 15-year, $5 billion ACCESS Oklahoma Turnpike Project. As of Friday, all work will cease on the several ACCESS projects already underway.

The stoppage comes as several pending legal matters work their way through the courts, and there are a few: an alleged Open Meeting Act violation case, a case challenging the agency’s legislative authority to build in several areas, and an impending state investigative audit. Because of these, the OTA has been prevented from accessing the bond market to further fund the ACCESS projects.

The stoppage includes current work on the Turner Turnpike as well as other major ACCESS projects around the state the agency calls “high priority.” OTA says normal operations and maintenance won’t be affected by the stoppage.

Executive Director Tim Gatz says despite the stoppage, the agency is still in a “strong financial position.”

“Once these roadblocks are resolved and a path to the bond market is cleared, I am confident we will resume ACCESS Oklahoma and begin moving forward on behalf of the people of Oklahoma,” Gatz said in a news release.

Attorney General Gentner Drummond said the issue is proof that an investigative audit of the OTA is necessary.

“This is a concerning development that causes me to question the leadership and cash flow management of this critical agency," Drummond said in a news release. "While it is unclear what the future holds for OTA, I am certain that the investigative audit I have ordered is needed now more than ever.”

Beth Wallis is StateImpact Oklahoma's education reporter.
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