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OTA comes to Purcell


It costs four cents a mile to travel on Oklahoma Turnpikes while the national average is seven cents.

That’s the word from Oklahoma Turnpike Authority Deputy Director Joe Echelle.

Echelle spoke to the Purcell Rotary Club last week and talked about the proposed turnpike that is drawn up to meet I-35 just north of Purcell.

He was accompanied by Bryce Boyer, the public information officer for Oklahoma Transportation.

Echelle said OTA receives zero state appropriations, bringing in only revenue from tolls.

“Forty percent of toll revenue comes from out of state motorists,” Echelle said.

In 2021 OTA brought in $135 million.

Approximately 38 percent of the tolls are paid by commercial carriers, Echelle told Rotarians and guests last Wednesday at Trinity United Methodist Church.

Echelle talked about safety enhancements on the turnpike system such as concrete barriers, cable barriers and cashless tolling.

An example of the safety of cashless tolling is it cuts down on traffic at the toll booths.

Echelle said you have  a person going 80 m.p.h. with a pike pass and you have another driver pulled over digging for change and it can cause problems.

“We’ve had fatality accidents at toll gates,” Echelle said.

Echelle explained if a property owner files a lawsuit, Oklahoma Law allows OTA to go straight to the Oklahoma Supreme Court for a ruling.

Talking about all the publicity around the turnpike expansion east of Norman, Echelle said there has been a lot of inaccurate reporting.

He said newspapers will pull one sentence out of a long answer and television stations call for a quote and say their deadline is 4:30 p.m. when they call at 4:15 p.m.

He indicated it has made things difficult for the OTA.

“Property acquisition is the most serious thing we do,” Echelle confirmed.

The Deputy Director listed the order or priority for the upcoming projects.

Number one is the Newcastle to I-35 turnpike. Second is I-35 to the Kickapoo turnpike and third is the Tri-City connector, which runs southwest of Will Rogers.

Fourth in priority is Indian Hills to SH 9 and fifth is the Highway 9 south turnpike to I-35 near Purcell.


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