Vehicle accidents at the Broadway Extension and Interstate 44 interchange have doubled in frequency since construction began there a year ago, but state transportation officials said the project will make one of Oklahoma County's busiest intersections safer in the long run.
Data released by the state Transportation Department indicates collisions at the intersection spiked from 85 in 2010 to 158 in 2011, with an additional 40 reported in the first three months of 2012.
Injury accidents increased from 29 in 2010 to 50 in 2011, with 13 reported for the first three months of 2012, the department reported.
Work began on the $23 million ramp project — the first of seven phases for this intersection — in June 2011 and is expected to be complete by the middle of next month.
When the phase is complete, southbound motorists on Broadway Extension turning west onto I-44 will have a longer, dedicated ramp to traverse and more space to merge into interstate traffic, said Cole Hackett, public information officer for the department.
Yield signs and orange cones and flags now denote the proper way to navigate the intersection, so motorist confusion is likely the culprit in most recent mishaps, he said.
The initial plan was to shut down access from southbound Broadway to westbound I-44.
“If we could get in there and close the road completely, we could get the project done more quickly,” he said. “But because there's so much traffic going through there and there's not another good way to get that much traffic through that area, we kind of had to do some rescheduling.”
Traffic counts indicate an average of 96,000 motorists traveled south on Broadway Extension and into the I-44 interchange each day in 2010, compared to almost 75,000 per day five years before.
Hackett said the department has marked the construction zone along each thoroughfare leading to the interchange and also reduced westbound interstate traffic to 50 mph to alleviate safety concerns.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Jeff Griffith, who oversees the troop division that patrols Oklahoma County, said highway construction zones inevitably lead to more accidents.
“That's just one of many areas we have that we have to pay extra attention to, and as construction completes, we anticipate there will be fewer crashes,” Griffith said.
Troopers patrol area
The Broadway and I-44 interchange is not even the patrol's busiest intersection in the county, he said. That designation belongs to the I-35 and I-240 interchange, location of 206 accidents in 2011, including two with fatalities and 58 with injuries.