Oklahoma City highway projects to worsen traffic woes

The Oklahoma Transportation Department says major Oklahoma City area highway construction projects will cause commuters to see more bottlenecking of traffic in north Oklahoma City and backed-up tractor-trailer rigs in the western metro area.
BY JOHN ESTUS jestus@opubco.com Modified: December 29, 2010 at 8:30 am •  Published: December 29, 2010

It could be another decade before daily traffic gridlock at one of Oklahoma City's busiest highway interchanges gets any better.

A rebuilding project at the Interstate 235 and Interstate 44 interchange in north Oklahoma City that begins next year could potentially last up to 10 years because much of it remains unfunded, state Transportation Department officials said Tuesday.

“We're looking at ways of speeding that up,” state Transportation Department Director Gary Ridley said.

Either way, Oklahoma City metro-area commuters are sure to spend more time hung up in highway traffic in 2011 because of that project and another major highway project beginning next year.

In the second half of 2011, the Transportation Department will begin the first phase of the $150 million rebuild of the deteriorating I-235 and I-44 interchange.

Ridley said the project, which will require several phases, is a priority because traffic problems continue to worsen at the interchange.

Bidding for the $24.8 million first phase of the interchange rebuild will begin early next year, and construction should be under way in the summer, department spokeswoman Brenda Perry said.

The ramp linking Broadway Extension southbound with I-44 westbound will close temporarily, and lanes on westbound I-44 temporarily will be reduced from three to two.

Other temporary road closures as a result of the project will be the access road linking I-44 with Western Avenue, the ramp linking NW 63 with Broadway Extension and parts of Grand Boulevard.

Once complete, the new interchange will be able to comfortably handle up to 170,000 vehicles a day.

That's a far cry from the typical day today, which sees at least 140,000 vehicles pass through the interchange — nearly double what it was designed to handle when it was built, the Transportation Department said.