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Rep. Seneca Scott proposes Interim Study for ‘e-construction’ and ‘road diets’ in Transportation

State Rep. Seneca Scott
State Rep. Seneca Scott

Staff Report

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Seneca Scott, D-Tulsa, has proposed a legislative Interim Study to focus an ‘e-construction’ record-keeping alternative for the state Transportation Department’s 8-year plan. If approved by legislative leadership, Rep. Scott also wants to examine “road diets” for route designs.

A press release from House Democratic Media staff pointed out that the administration of highway projects requires a significant amount of documentation.

This has traditionally been accomplished through extensive, paper-based documentation systems involving conventional postal delivery, project journals, note taking, stamped plan sets, design and construction submittals and physical signatures on multiple copies of many documents.

“Each year my office and the offices of all members in the state House and Senate receive bound paper copies of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s ‘8-Year Construction Plan’. This packet of documents weighs about 7 pounds and contains three primary reports outlining each upcoming project, as well as five high-gloss full-color brochures that focus on the individual transportation aspects, all contained within a plastic folio,” Rep. Scott said in the press release.

“I have no idea what this costs the department, but with roads and bridges in our state crumbling for lack of funding I want to find out.”

For 2016, “I counted 324 projected new or repair type transportation construction projects that ODOT hopes to complete,” the Tulsa legislator observed.

“What is the budgetary impact of administering and accounting for these projects? What is ODOT’s operational method for producing and distributing all of this data, and what is the rate of budget efficacy when we compare this to e-construction?”

That issue could be explored in the interim legislative study for 2015 that’s been requested by Rep.  Scott.

E-construction is a paperless construction administration delivery process that includes electronic submission of all construction documentation. A paper-based system requires significant time and money to create, process and store documents. In an era of instant communication, on-the-fly information access, and tech-savvy workforce, this state of affairs is fast becoming obsolete, Scott believes.

The Michigan Department of Transportation, a leader in “e-construction,” estimates that the agency saves approximately $12 million in added efficiencies and 6 million pieces of paper annually by using electronic document storage for its $1 billion construction program, while reducing its contract modification processing time from 30 days to 3 days.

The second half of Scott’s interim study would focus on implementing a process known as “Road-Diets” – that is, redefining existing highway lane space such as converting an existing four-lane, undivided roadway segment that serves both through and turning traffic into a three-lane segment with two through lanes and a center, two-way, left-turn lane.

The reclaimed space could be allocated for other uses, such as bike lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, bus lanes and/or parking.

“Cycling in Oklahoma is exploding both as a form of  exercise to improve health and as a competitive sport,” Scott said.

“More than 5,000 spectators gathered for the Pro-Am Classic, and the Saint Francis/Tulsa Toughrace now has 2,000 participants and 60,000 spectators! This is huge for our economy. So how is it that Oklahoma is considered one of the worst places in the country to cycle? We are ranked 45th in the nation. The answer, in part, is road access. Road Diets can have a significant impact without increasing our transportation budget. We do, however, need to follow through with funding earmarked for this activity, as other states have.”

The League of American Bicyclists has encouraged states to consider five key areas when hoping to improve bike-friendly standings: legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, infrastructure and funding, education/encouragement, and evaluation and planning.

June 12 was the deadline for submission of interim study requests in the state House of Representatives, and House Speaker Jeff Hickman said he will announce by July 10 which studies he has authorized.

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