But the program has not been without controversy. Lawmakers have “borrowed” from the fund several times in recent lean years, much to the chagrin of county officials, and some say the program’s rules do not sufficiently take into account differences among counties.
In any event, CIRB is intended for large, high-priority improvements such as bridge replacements, not normal maintenance and operations.
And that normal maintenance and operations can be pretty expensive. While some of those county roads seem pretty lonely, collectively they’re traveled more than 12 million vehicle miles a day.
Texas County, in the Panhandle, has 2,400 miles of county roads. Neighboring Beaver County has more than 2,000.
Even relatively urbanized Tulsa County has more than 700 miles of county roads.
All told, counties get around $300 million a year for road maintenance and operations, which works out to $4,239 a mile — considerably less when the four largest counties by population are removed from the equation.
That isn’t much, Doke said, “when an asphalt overlay costs $150,000 a mile, or to gravel a road costs $25,000-30,000. A new road grader, a quarter of a million dollars. A new dump truck, $125,000.”
“I can usually find the money to pave about six miles a year,” said Doke, whose Muskogee County District takes in roughly 450 miles of roads. “How are we ever going to get ahead like that?”