Oklahoma traffic counts dropped over 30 percent as COVID-19 caused many residents to stay home

Randy Ellis The Oklahoman

Traffic volumes on some Oklahoma highways dropped by more than 30 percent during April as government officials closed down the economy to mitigate the impact of COVID-19, Oklahoma Department of Transportation Executive Director Tim Gatz told commissioners Monday.

“We are seeing those traffic volumes now beginning to tick back up slightly and are optimistic that as we continue work around continuing to flatten the COVID-19 curve, that those traffic volumes will continue to pick back up as things normalize,” Gatz said.

Public transit has also dropped dramatically in the state, Gatz said, adding that state transportation officials will try to move federal relief funds along to transit agencies as quickly as possible.

The Oklahoma Transportation Commission conducted its May meeting by teleconference Monday, just as it had the month before in response to social distancing directives given in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gatz told commissioners the board might be able to conduct its meeting next month back at the transportation department building, but that has yet to determined.

Many state transportation office employees have been working from their homes, but Gatz said officials are “now beginning our work to normalize operations in accordance with the Open Up and Recover Safely Plan of Gov. Stitt.”

Employees will be brought back in phases in conformance with the governor’s plan, he said.

In other business, Gatz told commissioners the state has now lowered the number of structurally deficient bridges on the state highway system to 86.

There are about 6,800 bridges on the state system. Gatz noted that 86 is a dramatic improvement from the 1,168 structurally deficient bridges on the system in 2004 when the Legislature made a major commitment to increase annual funding for bridge projects. Oklahoma ranked 49th in the nation in the condition of its bridges back in 2004, but Gatz said he is optimistic Oklahoma may be a top 10 state this year when all states have reported their bridge data.