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Cornett, Couch Say MAPS 4 Could Be Used To Fix Oklahoma City Streets

Workers repair a road in Oklahoma City, July 9, 2014.
Sue Ogrocki

Mayor Mick Cornett says the next iteration of the MAPS sales tax could be used to repair crumbling infrastructure in Oklahoma City, but reiterated it likely won’t come this year.
Voters will consider renewing Oklahoma City's general obligation bond in 2017, and a street development impact fee will also take effect.

The MAPS 3 sales tax extension Oklahoma City voters approved in 2009 expires December 31, 2017. In a conversation with The Oklahoman's William Crum, Cornett ruled out a MAPS 4 proposal and vote happening this year:

But Thursday he said the ballot Oklahoma City voters will confront Nov. 8 already promises to be “controversial, confusing and complicated.” Voters will have their say on a range of issues ranging from a sales tax increase to fund teacher raises and a “right-to-farm” initiative to the presidential race. Amid the din of this fall's election season, Cornett said, civic leaders promoting the benefits of a MAPS sales tax extension would “have a tough time getting the message out.” Better, he said, to wait until the political fever cools a bit.

Both the original MAPS in 1993, and 2009’s MAPS 3 focused on major projects in downtown. Last year a grassroots effort calling itself MAPS 4 Neighborhoods started lobbying for the next sales tax proposal to focus on residential areas away from the city’s core.

As we’ve reported, Oklahoma City votes on a several hundred million-dollar general obligation bond every 10 years:

The city sets up a big fund once every decade, and then dole it out in a piecemeal approach. “Right now they have about $184 million left from an $835 million bond that was approved in 2007,” Brooks said. “What the city's doing right now is trying to figure out exactly what they need, and then they have to judge what they think the voters think they can afford.”

The next general obligation bond vote will come in the fall of 2017. City manager Jim Couch suggested a MAPS election could take place simultaneously, Crum writes:

Couch said the next MAPS “could be a shorter term, two to three years, and focused more on residential needs rather than large-scale projects.” Couch's memo provides a good road map for elected leaders to follow, Cornett said. A three-year extension of the MAPS sales tax and approval of a five-year general obligation bond program could, along with impact fees, raise in the neighborhood of $500 million for streets by 2022, much quicker than bonds alone could achieve.

Oklahoma City has one of the largest geographic footprints in the United States, with more than 8,000 miles of roads. In the 2015 citizen survey, 72 percent of residents said they were dissatisfied with the condition of city streets, and the number of people who were happy with the condition of  Oklahoma City roads dropped from 19 percent in 2013 to just 11 percent in 2015.

But as Crum notes, even though leaders want to address Oklahoma City’s infrastructure issues, find a way to pay for it isn’t easy:

The city council battled this year to assess a fee on new development to offset the cost to widen streets and repair roads when growth leads to increased traffic. In the end, the council settled for rates about 40 percent less than originally proposed by staff. Whether the street development fee will bring in the $6.7 million per year that was forecast remains to be seen. It will be assessed beginning in January.

KGOU is a community-supported news organization and relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online, or by contacting our Membership department.

Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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