Oklahoma Supreme Court To Decide Fate Of Norman Turnpike Project
News 9 - September 11, 2022 1:22 pm
NORMAN, Okla. –
The Oklahoma Supreme Court will take up the controversial ACCESS Oklahoma plan, which includes proposals for three new turnpikes in Cleveland County, in a hearing next week.
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority asked the state’s high court to authorize issuing $500 million in bond funding for the initial phases of the project, which include preliminary studies, engineering, and design, according to an OTA spokesperson.
The agency is also asking the court to validate its authority to construct three new turnpikes called the Tri-City Connector, East/West Connector, and the South Extension. A local opposition group called Pike Off OTA formed shortly after the plan was announced.
More than 600 homes, according to Pike Off OTA, could be destroyed if the turnpike construction moves forward and thousands of properties close to the routes would be devalued. The group has coordinated demonstrations and lawsuits in an effort to stifle ACCESS Oklahoma.
Pike Off OTA and the city of Norman both filed protests to the state Supreme Court this week, ahead of next week’s hearing before the justices. Both argue state law does not authorize the OTA to move forward with the construction of the turnpikes.
“This is a government overreach problem,” said Rob Norman, attorney for Pike Off OTA. “This is an agency trying to circumvent representative democracy, and it’s bad policy.”
An OTA spokesperson said its application to the Oklahoma Supreme Court “appropriately and sufficiently” addresses the claims made in the protests.
Although the OTA plans to issue bonds multiple times over the course of 15 years to fund the projects, the agency said it only needs to receive validation from the supreme court once.
Norman said the stakes of the court’s decision are “very high.”
The hearing will take place at the Oklahoma Judicial Center before a referee of the Supreme Court on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m.