Troubled bridge in hot water


There are all sorts of interesting rumors flying around about the proposed "private" toll bridge to Bixby. We are hearing that two of the County Commissioners (Wilbert Collins and Randi Miller) have been receiving threatening phone calls from bridge supporters, evidently because they're having second thoughts about the county's involvement in the scheme, which looks like a great deal for Infrastructure Ventures Inc., not such a great deal for Tulsa County or its taxpayers.

We are also hearing about potential action to abate the Comprehensive Plan for the planning district that includes far south Tulsa and the north end of the proposed bridge. It's odd to hear "abate" rather than "amend." An amendment would require approval by the Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission (TMAPC) and the Tulsa City Council. An abatement suggests court action to invalidate or mandate a change in the plan, which calls for nearly all of the district to remain residential.

I put "private" in sneer quotes above, because it isn't an accurate description of the deal between Tulsa County and IVI. The county will actually own the bridge after IVI builds it, but IVI will have a long-term franchise agreement to collect the tolls, with a small percentage (after 10 years) going to the County. The County is set to use its power of eminent domain for the benefit of the private developers. It looks an awful lot like government is using its muscle to acquire the land, while a private entity will reap the reward. Some people are wondering if the deal is a golden parachute for IVI execs Bill Bacon, Bob Parmele, and Howard Kelsey -- maybe for their pal, County Commissioner Bob Dick, too.

I heard something interesting about Howard Kelsey. He's a home builder, and he built the massive mansion owned by Robert E. Lorton, Jr., Chairman of World Publishing Corp. If the connection between Kelsey and the Lortons runs any deeper -- say, if the Lortons have a financial interest in the bridge through Kelsey -- they'd be wise to acknowledge it in the pages of their paper sooner rather than later, if they don't want to suffer another blow to the Whirled's tattered credibility. (I have to give the Whirled credit, however, for publishing a story about the independent analysis of the bridge's finances, which was very unfavorable to IVI's position.) (CORRECTION: I had written that Kelsey also built the house of Robert E. "Bobby" Lorton, III. A reader writes, "Kelsey was not involved with Bobby's house, instead it was Kleinco Construction Services. Kelsey did ultimately complete Jr's house but only after Roxanna [wife of Robert E. Lorton, Jr.] had run off several other builders.")

Finally, if IVI moves the north end of the bridge a bit to the east to avoid City of Tulsa-owned park land (and the resulting messy problem of the the county trying to condemn city-owned land), they will still have to deal with the City of Tulsa. The bridge builders would still have to acquire city-owned right-of-way for 121st Street or Yale or both in order to connect to the street grid.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 25, 2005 11:34 PM.

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