FUTURE exit signs on Interstate 40 will point the way to Oklahoma City Boulevard, the design for which remains incomplete. Pointing the way toward the best design would be a sign that says “Alternative A.”
The Oklahoma City Council will consider options for the boulevard at its Jan. 8 meeting. This is the next big step in a process that began with plans to relocate I-40 through downtown.
The freeway realignment itself had alternative routes, each of them with something in its favor, each controversial in its own way. The “winning” design displeased fans of restoring Union Station to its former glory; the roadway took part of the rail yard. Still, it was the best of the competing designs. Alternative A is the best of competing designs for the boulevard. It offers the most sensible approach to getting motorists to and from I-40.
When the new freeway opened a year ago, drivers were upset with the relative scarcity of ramps. The design was part of a plan that took the future boulevard into account. The old I-40 was an elevated eyesore that had long passed its sell-by date. The boulevard is to be built at grade level on the old freeway's footprint.
Or mostly at grade level. The boulevard wouldn't cross Western Avenue at street level. Instead, it would bridge it. Otherwise, motorists will take the old I-40 route at eye level with the streetscape. Alternative B would route Western onto a bridge over the new boulevard. Two other alternatives eliminate bridging but require complicated and overly broad intersections or traffic circles.
Alternative A is the most traffic-friendly, pedestrian-friendly of the competing designs. It has the best potential for encouraging development in the area. Motorists approaching from the west would exit I-40 well ahead of downtown but have no traffic lights until reaching Reno Avenue, just east of Classen Boulevard. Segments of Classen south and north of the old interstate would no longer be linked, which is necessary to manage traffic involving the proximity of Western, Classen, Reno and Exchange Avenue.