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Oklahoma City's new I-40 has been long time in the making

The westbound lanes of the new Interstate 40 Crosstown are due to open by the end of the month, bringing to a close a massive construction project expected to serve motorists well into the future.
BY ANDREW KNITTLE aknittle@opubco.com Published: February 12, 2012

The westbound section of the new Interstate 40 Crosstown is set to open by the end of the month, bringing to a close a massive construction project expected to serve motorists well into the future.

State and city leaders have been planning the nearly $700 million highway — located about five blocks south of the old one — since the 1990s.

Construction began in 2005.

Terri Angier, chief spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said the project stretching from I-44 to I-35 is one of “national significance.”

As for a firm opening date, she said several factors are making it difficult to pin down an exact day.

“We'll know, hopefully Tuesday or Wednesday for sure about a date,” Angier said. “We're going to see how Monday goes, with the weather, so we'll know then for sure.”

The old I-40, an elevated dinosaur by highway standards, was built in the mid-1960s.

It also has been described as one of the worst bridges in the country, earning it an inspection every six months instead of every two years.

State officials say the old Crosstown was in such poor condition that weight-restricted trucks were banned from using it.

The upkeep and inspections for the elevated roadway were costing the Transportation Department about $1 million annually.

Even with the ban on weight-restricted trucks, the old Crosstown routinely handled nearly twice as many vehicles as it was designed to support.

The old I-40 was designed to carry roughly 76,000 vehicles daily, while the new one is expected to be able to handle 173,000.

In November 1989, a crack was discovered in one of the old Crosstown's pier beams, attracting national attention to the bridge.

After the crack was discovered, major traffic delays followed as crews were sent in to make emergency repairs.

“That really crippled downtown Oklahoma City traffic for about a day,” Angier said. “From that point on, the Federal Highway Administration ... and ODOT began to really look at the process of how we were going to get our arms around the funding to do something like this.”

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