“Our goal is to complete this project by the end of 2014. You have to hit certain mile stones to make that happen, and we’ve been in talks with the city to make that happen. There should be no surprise we are working expeditiously to make these connect complete to downtown. We’ve been at this quite a long time. We’re moving forward because no one has told us to stop. And why would we stop?”
- Oklahoma Department of Transportation Director Gary Ridley, July, 2012
Now this headline from Michael McNutt: Downtown OKC boulevard completion won’t be until 2016
This definitely gets my attention. Just a few months ago, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation was making it clear there would be no delays, that the project had to be finished in 2014. The word “promise” was thrown about a dozen, if not dozens of times in statements from ODOT representatives and engineers as they explained why the boulevard project could not be delayed to allow for public input and possible design changes that might be sought out by the city. But they couldn’t simply dismiss the concerns of property owners, residents and city council members that the elevated bypass could kill redevelopment of the surrounding Core to Shore area.
The residents of Oklahoma City spoke out, they showed up at public meetings by the hundreds to express their opposition to the 1990s-era elevated bypass designs being pushed by ODOT engineers on a road that would then belong to the city. It was a road that residents, right or wrong, thought would be a pedestrian-friendly boulevard.
Officials with the Federal Highway Administration were watching and listening at those meetings. City council members sided with the protesters, and City Manager Jim Couch and his city engineers offered up a compromise: hire an out-of-state engineer to look at all options to see if all concerns could be addressed. The solution, known as Option A by Stantech, hasn’t made everyone happy. Opponents question why Stantech wasn’t allowed to simply look at doing away with the boulevard all together.
My one surprise is that no one has asked if a full intersection couldn’t be added at Lee Avenue (not a heavily traveled road) to ensure that ample north-south pedestrian crossings can exist along the boulevard and prevent the road from being a short version of the Lake Hefner Parkway.
Note, this is still largely a bypass – there is only ONE intersection being added – at Reno Avenue, that would require traffic to stop. That’s it. One stop for pedestrians to cross between Western and Walker Avenues.
Read Zeke Campfield’s latest story advancing tomorrow’s debate here: Oklahoma City Council set to make decision on boulevard design