Drivers may be encountering more roadblocks downtown than ever before, but they may take a bit of comfort in knowing some of the inconveniences will be far more short-lived, thanks to an overhaul of Project 180.
Project 180, the downtown makeover of streets, sidewalks, parks and public spaces funded through a tax increment financing district created with construction of Devon Energy Center, started in 2009 and initially resulted in months-long delays and even closures of businesses cut off from their customers.
The problems were well documented: city officials rushed to implement a 2014 deadline to get all the streets completed. That deadline cited an agreement with Devon Energy, but officials with Devon said they were asking only that the streets adjacent to their campus be done when or shortly after their new 50-story tower opened in late 2012. The year 2014 is now upon us, and completion of Project 180 is still at least a year away.
That rush and the structuring of the construction contracts resulted in contractors sometimes jumping from one job site to another. Couch Drive in front of the Oklahoma City Museum was torn up and then abandoned by contractors for an entire summer. Project 180 was restructured so that contractors could not jump from one street to another without finishing the first segment. Early completion incentives were added into contracts.
An early test of this new approach was the reconstruction of Dean A. McGee Avenue between Broadway and Robinson Avenue, which greatly reduced access to Kitchen No. 324 and other adjoining properties and businesses. The city promised the job would be completed by May, and the job reopened last month as promised.
The next segment, Park Avenue, is coming up soon, and it may end up being the most painful closing yet. But one can hope that this new city approach to Project 180 is working.
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