Sapulpa City Manager Tom DeArman said travel from his city to Tulsa became much easier when the Creek West Extension opened in December 2000.

“It’s made an astounding impact,” he said of the highway that connects the Turner Turnpike to US Highway 75.

“The traffic counts are quite good,” DeArman said, “and basically it allowed for better accessibility between the Tulsa metro area and Sapulpa.”

The project was among five financed by a $687 million Oklahoma Turnpike Authority revenue bond issue in 1998. The OTA board took a step Monday toward refinancing to pay for future improvements - but only if it can sell Series 2006 revenue bonds at fixed or variable interest rates that are low enough.

Wendy Smith, director of finance and revenue for the OTA, said refinancing could produce $30 million in savings to “be put back on the roads for other projects.”

But the projects would be years away and the locations are yet to be determined. There’s also no guarantee there will be interest savings any time soon to pay for those projects. The average interest rate from the 1998 sales was 5.16 percent.

Prior to the vote, OTA Director Phil Tomlinson said the bond oversight council will meet Thursday to determine whether rates meet the criteria for refinancing.

“There would have to be a 5 percent savings to reissue (the bonds),” Tomlinson said. “Right now, the savings aren’t there. It all depends on the interest rate.”

The OTA was authorized to sell up to $750 million in bonds in 1998 to pay for five turnpike improvements, including the Creek West Extension.

The bond issue also paid for the Creek Turnpike eastern extension from US 169 to the Will Rogers Turnpike; an H.E. Bailey Turnpike Spur south and west of Oklahoma City; completion of the John Kilpatrick Turnpike in Northwest Oklahoma City from Hefner Parkway to Interstate 40; and connecting the Creek East Extension to the Muskogee Turnpike.

The board began considering refinancing since last August when rates were low. The Legislature this year passed a bill that would allow the OTA to do it, but rates have been inching up lately, which would put the idea on hold.

The board meets July 19.

in Oklahoma City.

James S. Tyree is CNHI News Service Oklahoma reporter.

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