Construction of the downtown Oklahoma City boulevard may be delayed as much as two years because of changes in the roadway's original design, state Transportation Department officials said Monday.
First bids on the roadway, which will be built on the route of the old elevated Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway that was torn down last year, were to be awarded in August with work starting late last year, Gary Evans, deputy director and chief engineer for the state Transportation Department, told members of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission.
The roadway, which will connect downtown Oklahoma City to I-40, was to have been completed in late 2014, but now it appears construction won't start until next year, Evans said.
Completion now is expected in 2016.
“We'll move forward with it as quickly as we can while being respectful of the input of all the parties that have an interest in this roadway,” he said.
“It was part of the overall plan for the relocation of I-40, the reconnection of the downtown area.
I-40 previously went immediately into the downtown area; when it moved to the south we needed to make sure that we had that access to the downtown business area preserved. This boulevard was envisioned to re-establish that access.”
Changes in downtown Oklahoma City, as well as differing opinions on the roadway since it was planned about 10 years ago, are causing the delay, state Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley said.
“During that time, things have changed in downtown Oklahoma City,” he said.
Oklahoma City officials held public meetings and hired a consultant to come up with a roadway that would meet the city's and residents' needs.
The boulevard, which will be a city street after it is built, originally was intended to be a six-lane roadway, with a bridge on the western end.
The latest proposal now is for a four-lane road with at least some street-side parking, landscaping and improvements to aid pedestrians.
Some concerns were raised by those who wanted the roadway to be built totally at ground level; the latest proposal shows the western end of the boulevard featuring a raised roadway only at an overpass above Western Avenue, not for a much longer stretch as previously planned.
The Oklahoma City Council is expected to take up the roadway's design at Tuesday's meeting.
After the city approves its design, the state Transportation Department will hold one or two additional public meetings on the planned roadway and send a recommendation to federal highway officials because the new design is different from the original concept, Evans said.
Federal approval is required
The Federal Highway Administration will give final approval.
The project is being paid for with federal dollars sent to the state Transportation Department because it is part of the I-40 Crosstown Expressway project.
The $680 million Crosstown Expressway opened last year, replacing the nearly 50-year-old elevated Crosstown.
The boulevard portion of the project is estimated to cost about $80 million; about $40 million to $45 million is for the ramps and bridges connecting the roadway to I-40 on both ends and $30 million to $35 million is for the actual roadway, state transportation officials said.
It's expected federal approval could be granted late this year, Evans said.
“Under that scenario, we would not anticipate a future construction project until the spring of 2014, and then it would be close to a two-year construction time frame … before the project would be completed,” he said.
Civic leaders intended the boulevard to be a scenic gateway into downtown, a commuter's route to and from work, as well as a route for civic projects such as the MAPS 3 convention center and urban park.
“Ultimately this will be a city street, so we certainly would like it to function like the city of Oklahoma City would like it to be,” Evans said.