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Oklahoma City streets: Audit faults oversight as component in project delays

Auditors who studied 2011 street projects questioned whether Oklahoma City was doing enough to reduce inconveniences for motorists during road construction.
by William Crum Published: October 13, 2013

When Pat Ryan asks a question, it's often about road construction.

The Ward 8 city councilman represents far north Oklahoma City, where work zones are common along section-line roads that are being widened to accommodate development.

Over the summer, Ryan commented on the inconvenience of construction delays and suggested the city analyze the time it allots contractors to do a job.

A 2012 audit found that is not as easy as it sounds.

The city auditor's office studied 22 road construction projects completed in 2011, concluding the city lacked the ability to adequately track progress or get street work done in a timely way.

Oklahoma City is doing $70 million a year in improvements, mostly street work, included in a package approved by voters in 2007.

Altogether, voters approved borrowing money for 137 street projects worth nearly $500 million.

More than 750 of the city's 8,151 lane-miles of streets are to be resurfaced, widened or rebuilt.

The city will spend an additional $40 million on bridges, traffic signals and other work.

Dealing with delays

Among the 2011 projects studied by auditors were two street-widening projects that were delayed while the city waited for utilities to be moved.

Waiting on utilities and other delays, some of them unexplained, stretched construction work that should have been done in less than a year into 20-month marathons, the auditors said.

Altogether, the two projects took an average of nearly three years from start of construction to final acceptance of the work.

Auditors suggested city leaders:

Change bidding procedures to balance time against cost, testing how much costs go up when timelines are shortened.

Break street resurfacing projects — which are routinely bundled together to get better prices — into individual pieces.

Define the time allowed for construction in terms of days when traffic will be disrupted “to more explicitly recognize citizen inconvenience.”

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by William Crum
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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