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Oklahoma Supreme Court moves ACCESS Oklahoma forward

An Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling Tuesday approved the state Department of Transportation’s $5 billion, 15-year turnpike expansion plan, allowing the ACCESS Oklahoma project to proceed.

ACCESS Oklahoma includes three new turnpike routes: the South Extension, the East-West Connector — the two that most greatly affect Norman — and the Tri-City Connector. Norman residents and political leaders opposed the proposed project by holding a protest at the state Capitol in March 2022, chanting “go away, OTA.”

Two lawsuits were filed: one that alleged the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority violated the Open Meeting Act and one that challenged its authorization to construct the turnpike routes. The attorney representing the opponents in the authorization suit, Rob Norman, wrote in a statement that Tuesday’s opinion gives the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority broad powers with unknown limits.

“The dissenting opinions provided a convincing, well-reasoned explanation of why the new turnpikes clearly exceed the critically important guardrails the legislature has placed upon the Turnpike Authority,” Norman wrote.

A judge ruled against the OTA in December 2022 in an Open Meeting Act lawsuit. A week later, OTA halted all previously approved contract work for the ACCESS Oklahoma project due to the ongoing legal challenges. The state Supreme Court would later overturn that ruling in May.

Source : Oudaily