An overpass at Western Avenue will be the only above-grade portion of the western end of Oklahoma City Boulevard if a consultant’s recommendation wins eventual approval.
Oklahoma City officials released design plans this week for the boulevard’s western section in advance of the formal unveiling of consultant Stantec’s recommendations at a public meeting Monday. Stantec was contracted to study options for the boulevard to traverse a complicated series of intersections west of downtown.
The boulevard’s eventual design on that end has been a divisive subject, with some favoring plans that maximize development opportunities and others favoring a focus on traffic movement.
A raised roadway only at Western is essentially a compromise between those priorities, which usually involve design elements that come at the expense of the other.
The first design of the boulevard featured an elevated roadway all the way from west of Western to Walker Avenue, which is good for moving traffic but bad for creating development opportunities on the boulevard, intended to be a grand parkway and redevelopment magnet.
The roadway would be at-grade for several more blocks if the recommended version is eventually chosen.
“The majority of the retaining wall has been eliminated,” city Public Works Director Eric Wenger said. “It enhances a lot of the at-grade opportunities for development and future use. It increases accessibility for walkability and all those other things that encourage a revitalization of the area.”
The city council, state Transportation Department and federal transportation authorities all have a hand in the ultimate approval of the roadway.
State transportation officials have said they are willing to form a plan to build a roadway based on what the city council says it wants, and federal authorities have to give final approval.
Wenger said consultants considered about 40 options before settling on their recommendation.
The other most significant change to the design is that it consolidates traffic on Western and Classen Boulevard to go under the boulevard in one place, which is part of an overall design change designed to make downtown traffic-flow more efficient, Wenger said.
“It helps eliminate an intersection, reducing a lot of the traffic congestion in the area,” Wenger said.
No matter what design is chosen, questions about how the boulevard will look east of Reno Avenue have yet to be answered.
Wenger said “discussions are still taking place” on how limited access to the boulevard will be, and how extensive street-side parking will be.
If the boulevard is constructed based on the consultant’s recommendation, it will likely result in some cost savings as compared with the first design possibility, Wenger said.
But how the savings would be used remains to be seen.
“There will be future meetings as part of the MAPS 3 projects and the overall design of the boulevard,” Wenger said.
The boulevard, although separate from MAPS 3, is nonetheless essentially an element of some of the program’s cornerstone projects. The MAPS 3 convention center and urban park are both expected to border the boulevard.
The meeting during which the design recommendation will be formally unveiled is set for 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center, 425 E California Ave., and is open to the public. It will be shown live online on the city’s Ustream.tv channel.
More public meetings regarding design elements of the boulevard are expected to follow. The city and state Transportation Department will solicit feedback from people about the design.
The boulevard, expected to be completed in 2014, will follow the alignment of the old Crosstown Expressway from west of downtown into Bricktown.
For more information about the meeting, or to see the designs or download comment forms, go to www.okc.gov/okcblvd.