The Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY — State Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley said Thursday that motorists who drove along Oklahoma turnpikes during the Christmas Eve blizzard without paying the toll will not have to pay a $25 fine.
And he said the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority was wrong for issuing more than 1,200 toll violation notices.
“When government makes a mistake, government needs to admit it, correct it and make sure it never happens again,” Ridley said. “We certainly made a mistake in how we handled this.”
The OTA sent automatic toll violation notices to 1,286 motorists who drove on an Oklahoma turnpike between Christmas Eve — when the blizzard began — and the day after Christmas. The notices demanded that the motorists pay a $25 fine for not paying the toll.
But Ridley said so much snow fell during the storm that driving lanes were not visible and some cash toll collection equipment would not operate.
Some motorists have complained that they could not get to cash toll gates because cars or snowdrifts were blocking the entrances during the blizzard. Many cash turnpike users had no choice but to take a prepaid Pikepass lane, triggering the automated violation notice.
“We had an unprecedented snowstorm and blizzard,” Ridley said. “It was an extreme event of huge proportions.”
The storm lasted for more than six hours and dropped 14 inches of wind-blown snow with drifts up to three feet high in Oklahoma City and elsewhere. Dozens of motorists were stranded and had to be rescued by authorities when their cars got stuck in snow on one of Oklahoma’s turnpikes or other highways.
Four turnpikes — the H.E. Bailey, Turner, Kilpatrick and Creek — were closed during the storm and part of the Will Rogers Turnpike northeast of Tulsa was also closed, turnpike officials said.
“It really was unfit for anyone,” said Tim Stewart, deputy director of OTA.
The Associated Press
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