All the dirt, news, culture and commentary for Oklahoma's second century.

Broken road, broken promises
Bad, broken roads, like this one here in Oklahoma, are more common than they need to be.
Fertile Ground Compost Service
Help support Red Dirt Report

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Earlier this year my automobile insurance shot up almost thirty dollars a month. I hadn’t had an accident, nor had I been cited for a traffic violation. I hadn’t added anyone to my policy, nor had I made a weather-related damage claim. When I called my insurance company, they told me they had to raise my premiums because I live in Oklahoma, that Oklahoma had been designated a hazardous area because of poor road conditions.

It doesn’t stop there. Last month I spent nearly two thousand dollars replacing the struts and shocks on my 2008 Chevrolet HHR. The service tech who worked on my car told me they’ve been getting a lot of suspension work in the last few years. “Those Oklahoma roads,” he said. “Nothing like job security.”

Recently, I’ve been doing some traveling. I drove up to Northern New Mexico, around the Enchanted Circle, through Angel Fire, Red River and Taos. I drove down to Santa Fe, down through Cline’s Corner, along I-40 through Tucumcari and into the Texas Panhandle. All along the way, over 500 miles in total, I never encountered rough roads like I commonly see in Oklahoma. A few weeks after going to New Mexico I took an autumn motorcycle ride through the Arkansas Ozarks. I rode up Route 23, commonly called The Pig Trail, impressed with the good road conditions, thankful I didn’t have to ride my 1600cc Kawasaki Vulcan Nomad on patched asphalt in addition to negotiating some treacherous curves.

During my trips I noticed some peculiar things. The weigh stations in Oklahoma are closed and seem to have been closed for quite some time, causing me to wonder if the bad road conditions in Oklahoma might be caused by excessive loads, and I’ve been concerned about our poorly lighted highways, lines and lines of unlit street lamps, even in heavily traveled areas like the I-40 and I-35 interchanges in Oklahoma City. Another concern: what’s with the closing of our rest stops and rest areas?

So it seems that the condition of our roads is only a part of the problem. The lack of amenities on our highways, the lack of bridge maintenance, the lack of lighting, the inconsistent quality of highways from county to county all indicate a pattern of neglect if not a methodical disengagement from the building and maintenance of public infrastructure. I’ll point to the proliferation of turnpikes throughout our state to illustrate how more and more Oklahomans are forced to pay from their own pockets to drive on safe, secure roads. According to, our state has ten turnpikes with more tolled roadway miles than any other state in the nation.

The turnpikes are supposed to raise revenue, of course, but where is that money going? Do the turnpikes ever pay for themselves? Does some of that money go to the building and maintenance of open roads and highways?

The condition of our open roads and highways seems to reflect an overall policy in our state government, that of diminishing government services in favor of big business and industry where the average citizen has to pay more and more for out-of-pocket expenses as industry leaders get more breaks, more incentives, and more profit. Our turnpikes are closed systems with few stops, all of which are designed to maximize the potential for people to spend money on fuel, bad food, and cheap souvenirs. The closing of weigh stations benefits the trucking industry, the movement of heavy equipment for the drilling of oil and fracking and other endeavors. And what about the inefficient use of city and county resources when it comes to road construction and repair? Why do relatively small projects take months and months to complete?

It makes me wonder who’s getting a payoff. After all, it was only a generation ago when 230 officials, including 110 county commissioners in sixty of the state’s seventy-seven counties, were convicted or plead guilty in what had been our nation’s largest public corruption case (Tulsa World, February 3, 1984). According to the Oklahoma Political Science Association (1992), though the subsequent reforms made some improvements, they left in place much of the traditional system of county road building, “a system one observer described as “road districtitis.”

In our state’s disdain for regulatory processes, it has abdicated responsibility to build and maintain safe roads and means of transportation for all citizens, breaking promises to provide one of the essential functions of government service to the public. According to TRIP, a nonprofit transportation research group, the average driver in Oklahoma City pays $782 for vehicle repairs related to damaged roads (, November 12, 2013).

I certainly have paid my share of the costs for negotiating treacherous Oklahoma roads, and I wish I could bill the city, county, and/or state to recover some of my expenses. Indeed, it looks like a lot of people would like to do so.

Class Action, anyone?

Enjoy this? Please share it!

About the Author

Paula Sophia Schonauer

Paula Sophia Schonauer is a novelist, slam poet, community activist, veteran cop and parent. Her...

read more

Enjoy this? Please share it!

About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

Member of the Oklahoma Press Association
Member of Investigative Reporters & Editors
Member of Diversity Business Association
Member of Uptown 23rd
Rotary Club of Bricktown OKC
Keep it Local OK