Chicken-Fried News: Road dread 

INGVARD ASHBY
  • Ingvard Ashby

If Gov. Kevin “Oklahoma is open for business” Stitt is the manager of our government’s metaphorical Kmart (hey, we gotta start somewhere), somebody should tell him we need major cleanup on aisle number All of Them. On March 17, Chicken-Fried News’ arch beer pong rival The Oklahoman published a report on the lousy conditions of several country roads, describing potholes, steep drop-offs with no guard rails, illegally dumped machinery and other issues that would surely show up in snooty one-star Yelp reviews if the state were an actual business. The late John Denver would be appalled.

The report linked these conditions to incidents of drivers running off the road, sometimes into water, and in some cases — such as that of former Putnam City West High School students Jordan Vladimir Chaj Gonzales, 19, and Kelvin Perez-Lopez, 18, whose bodies police discovered in Lake Overholser near a submerged vehicle on March 7 — never making it back out. A study published in October of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Fatality Analysis Reporting System data concluded that Oklahoma State Highway 9 is the second most-dangerous highway in the United States, with the majority of the 50 reported fatal accidents that occurred between 2010 and 2016 happening in Cleveland County.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. According to Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s report on highway system conditions, cuts to the department’s budget since 2010 amount to $880 million and the decreased funding has delayed “many necessary pavement improvement and congestion mitigation projects” while increased traffic and severe weather mean that “highway pavements will continue to deteriorate rapidly.”

Uh-oh. Looks like that light belongs to a tractor-trailer wildly careening on loose gravel, and OMG it is coming straight at us!

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