Eastbound lanes of new Interstate 40 Crosstown open for traffic in Oklahoma City

Motorists started using eastbound lanes Thursday of the new Interstate 40 Crosstown roadway in Oklahoma City. The westbound lanes should open for traffic in three to eight weeks.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: January 6, 2012

The load on one of the worst bridges in the country has been reduced in half.

The eastbound lanes of the new Interstate 40 Crosstown opened Thursday for traffic.

The four-mile stretch of roadway runs from about the Interstate 44 junction east to the junction with Interstates 35 and 235. Westbound lanes should open for traffic in three to eight weeks.

The new 10-lane roadway, a major thoroughfare not only for Oklahoma City but for the country, is replacing the longest structurally deficient bridge in the state, which has undergone repeated emergency repairs over the years. A crack was discovered in 1989 in one of the pier beams.

Planning work started in 1996 to develop a new roadway. Construction began in 2005.

“This has been a project that has been a long time coming,” Gov. Mary Fallin said.

“The I-40 Crosstown is a major corridor for transportation of goods, of services, for visitors, for tourists, for our people of the state of Oklahoma to travel up and down this highway,” she said. “It's important that we have a safe, reliable, effective, efficient transportation system ... in our capital city.”

Because of structural concerns, the elevated Crosstown, which was built in 1965, is inspected every six months; most bridges are inspected once every two years.

The cost of inspections and upkeep is more than $1 million a year for the elevated Crosstown. Weight-restricted trucks are banned from the bridge, which when it was built had state-of-the-art features. The fracture-critical bridge design, ramps and narrow shoulders are inadequate by today's standards.

State Transportation Department Director Gary Ridley said the new roadway will be safer and will be able to handle traffic volume for years to come. Ridley thanked the state's congressional delegation and state and local officials for working together to make the project a reality.

Ridley, transportation director since 2001, said Fallin, who earlier served as the state's lieutenant governor and in the U.S. House of Representatives, was a key supporter of the new roadway.

“She wanted to make sure that we got the people off of the bridge as quickly as we could, wanted to make sure it was safe all of the time that we were using it and that was always her prime concern,” Ridley said.

Motorists began driving on the five lanes about 12:30 p.m. Thursday, about two hours after federal, state and local officials took part in a ceremony on the roadway near the Western Avenue bridge. Afterward, a convoy of 150 vehicles, including antique cars and trucks representing Oklahoma businesses, were given the signal to drive down the roadway. The roadway was opened to regular traffic later.

Changes for drivers

Drivers will have to adjust to different on- and off-ramps. Eastbound off-ramps are at Agnew, Pennsylvania and Western avenues and Shields Boulevard. Eastbound on-ramps are at Pennsylvania, Western and Shields.

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