Oddly, the topic of Oklahoma's toll road system has popped into the normal everyday conversation at some point in your time here. Everybody wonders why the turnpike still costs money even though it was promised to be free one day.

The simple answer is something Lawton is all too familiar with... lies and dirty politics, but that answer only begs more questions. Here's why Oklahoma's turnpikes keep costing drivers.

When America entered its greatest time of prosperity after WWII, state officials wanted to piggyback on the country's road plan. This was before the US Interstate Highway system and those plans didn't matter anyway. Oklahoma was looking to connect itself to its capital city. The easiest way to do this was by selling bonds to pay for a toll road that drivers could eventually pay off.

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority was created in 1947, charged with connecting Tulsa and Lawton to Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma's governor at the time, Roy Turner, was a strong supporter of this idea since it would expedite the state's infrastructure construction faster than anyone at the federal level could do, but it didn't come about without some strong arguments.

Looking out for the people, Governor Turner insisted that any and all toll roads must become free to travel after the debt had been paid, an estimated forty years per toll road. The state legislature agreed and this is how our turnpike system started, but it didn't last long.

Since this pay-it-off/free use idea didn't benefit some of those involved, they found a sneaky way to bypass the governor and swindle the public.

For whatever reason, with so much buzz about the promise of good and efficient roads to be built across the state, politicians managed to sell the public a ballot question about a turnpike extension from Lawton to the Texas border. Naturally, the public voted YES on it without a second thought, but there was something tucked deep into the fine print.

Oklahoma State Question 933 was the vote on whether the H.E. Bailey/Lawton turnpike should extend all the way to the Texas state line, but it was also amended to include a blurb about cross-pledging tolls.

The long and short of it was this... It would allow two or more turnpike projects to be combined and financed as one project. It also allowed for the tolls of all other turnpike roads to collect on behalf of others even after they'd been paid off. It was sold to the public on a promise that the turnpike toll roads would be paid off faster if all could collect on a single debt, so it passed the vote without a second thought.

Little did Oklahoma voters know that they really opened a really expensive can of worms.

This "cross-pledging" of funds went into law with some fancy wording. It basically says that as long as there is one toll road to collect for, all toll roads shall keep charging. Even though the H.E. Bailey has been paid off since the 1990s, we still pay tolls on it because the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority keeps coming up with toll roads to build.

As time has gone on, Oklahoma's turnpike system has figured out a way to keep you paying on sub-par roads. They keep adding turnpikes or improvements, the law says we have to keep paying to fund them. This is why we keep getting new toll booths all the time.

The more projects they fund, the more highway robbery we can expect.

Three original Oklahoma turnpike projects have become eleven, and there's no sign of stopping. Three more turnpike projects were just approved, and I cannot stress this enough, there's no real reason for them to be built.

The plan is to connect nowhere in particular with another nowhere in particular around the state capital. A "loop" if you will. Splitting between already established and easily traveled routes from Will Rogers International Airport to another turnpike section on the metro's far east side.


Ironically, most of the new turnpike will exist in perpetuity where State Highway 37 is shockingly smooth, modern, and free to travel now.

What does that have to do with Southwest Oklahoma and the H.E. Bailey turnpike? It means we shall tack on at least another forty years of ever-increasing tolls just to skip up to OKC quickly.

There are alternative routes to OKC if you have the patience... You can exit I-44 at Apache and take U.S. 62 through Anadarko and Chickasha. 62 will take you straight to Newcastle from there. Or skip over to Marlow and take Highway 81 to where U.S. 62 swings through Chickasha. You may save on tolls, but you'll offset those savings in time and additional fuel.

Then again, sometimes the long way is the better way. There's no doubt you'll find the most amazing foods in small-town Oklahoma.

Lawton's Worst Roads As Voted By You

Roads have always been a hot topic in Lawton. The local government always promises to fix them when elections are at stake, but the improvements never come. It's more of the same crumbling roads and bandaid patches due to what the city describes as "too little funding," even though we continually vote for bonds to satisfy these issues.

Here are the worst commonly used roads in Lawton as voted by you.

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15 More Amazing Southwest Oklahoma Hole-In-The-Wall Eats

It's far too easy to be lulled into thinking the same old chain restaurants are the "good" places to eat across Southwest Oklahoma. You won't find a single franchise on this list. It's all locally owned, locally run, sometimes a little run down, but you'll agree the meals are outstanding when you walk away with a belly full of the good stuff.

In no particular order, here are another fifteen amazing local Southwest Oklahoma eats, and be sure to check out the O.G. 15 Amazing SWOK Hole-In-The-Wall Eats right here when you're done...

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