U.S. Congressman Frank Lucas tours Grant County
federal transportation project

Congressman Lucas discusses the importance of safe and secure roads and bridges to help grow the economy.  (L to R: Cindy Bobbitt, Grant County Commissioner; Robert Gonzales, CFO of Gonzales Welding and Construction Inc.; and U.S. Representative Frank Lucas.)

Congressman Lucas recognizes the significance for the reauthorization of the federal transportation bill and what that means to Grant County. (L to R: Robert Moss, Grant County D2 Foreman; Robert Gonzales, CFO of Gonzales Welding and Construction Inc.; Rich Donaldson, Grant County Emergency Manager; Cindy Bobbitt, Grant County Commissioner; and U.S. Representative Frank Lucas.) 

MEDFORD, Okla. – U.S. Representative Frank Lucas recently visited Grant County during August recess. During the visit, Lucas met with Grant County Commissioner Cindy Bobbitt for a tour of federal transportation projects in the county.

The tour included a bridge location on Harper Road east of County Road 1010, which has been closed since 2003. The bridge is slated to be rebuilt in early 2016. The $850,000 project will be funded with 80 percent federal funds and 20 percent state and local funds. The federal funding was authorized through MAP-21, the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act of 2012.

“This federal transportation project tour gave Congressman Lucas an opportunity to see his contribution to his constituents,” Bobbitt said.  “It served as an opportunity for county government officials, county employees and local business leaders to provide on-site feedback to Congressman Lucas.”

In particular, Lucas was able to hear from Robert Gonzales, CFO of Gonzales Welding and Construction Inc. in Medford, who expressed that his business relies heavily on safe and secure roads and bridges to access jobsites in several states. Local businesses like Gonzales’ support jobs that stimulate the Grant County, national and global economy.

Counties play an essential role in transportation and infrastructure networks nationwide. In Oklahoma, counties own and maintain 75 percent of all road miles and 62 percent of all bridges. Grant County has more bridges than any other Oklahoma county and the fifth largest number of road miles.

Yet, federal legislation to support surface transportation is vital to continue economic growth and support the infrastructure needs of counties and states, Bobbitt said. MAP-21 was the first long-term highway authorization for the nation’s surface transportation system since 2005, but the law expired in September 2014 and was extended to May 2015. Both chambers of Congress passed a three-month extension of MAP-21 in July.

“A long-term bill is critical for counties to make necessary reinvestments in our transportation infrastructure that can support our services for ambulances, fire trucks, first responders, school buses, rural mail carriers and agriculture equipment, as well as vehicles needed in the oil and gas industry and for the expanding wind farm production,” said Rich Donaldson, Grant County Emergency Manager. “Good major collector roads are especially vital for evacuation routes.”

The Senate recently passed a six-year surface transportation bill, the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act. The U.S House of Representatives is expected to develop and pass its own reauthorization bill this September, Bobbitt said. She said the opportunity to reauthorize a federal surface transportation program will allow Congress to make policy changes and set funding levels for years to come.

Lucas said he recognizes the three-month extension of MAP-21 provides only a temporary fix. He said he is looking forward to working with Congress to develop a long-term transportation bill.

Following the federal transportation project tour, Lucas held a town hall meeting in Medford where he spoke about a number of issues including what he calls “a triple threat for a triple cliff” that are important to the residents of Grant County and northern Oklahoma.