During an April 6 virtual meeting of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission, Tim Gatz – executive director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and state transportation secretary – said his agency remains “committed” to maintaining the “continuity of critical transportation operations” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
[Above photo by the Oklahoma DOT.]
“While there is significantly less traffic on our highways right now, the transportation infrastructure maintained by [the Oklahoma] DOT is absolutely critical to emergency response and the supply chain, both locally and nationally,” Gatz said during the meeting, adding most of the agency’s office staff is working remotely while maintenance crews and construction inspectors in the field practice social distancing to stay healthy while keeping highways safely open.
“The department has adopted many measures to keep its employees safe since their critical work must continue,” he added, noting that his agency is “closely monitoring” the state’s budget outlook and is ready to help if needed, while Oklahoma DOT engineers and planners are actively preparing to take advantage of possible federal recovery funding in the near future.
At that meeting, the nine-member commission also voted to award 29 contracts totaling $60 million to improve highways, roads and bridges in 26 counties across Oklahoma.
On April 3, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) noted that the state is expected to “experience a revenue failure” of approximately $416 million for the remainder of fiscal year 2020, which ends June 30, due to fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under normal circumstances, such a revenue failure would automatically result in 6.2 percent budget cuts to all state agencies. However, the governor said in a statement he started formal procedures necessary for the state legislature to tap into the state’s “Rainy Day Fund,” which currently has a balance of $806 million, with up to $302 million constitutionally available to the legislature to supplement the fiscal year 2020 budget.
The Trump administration also issued a major disaster declaration for Oklahoma on April 5, covering all 77 of the state’s counties.