The new Crosstown is about five blocks south of the existing, crumbling roadway. It is the most expensive highway project in the state because it involves realigning the roadway and replacing a bridge with a ground-level and partly underground roadway. About $570 million has been spent so far on the $688 million project.
“It leaves a great impression on motorists,” Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said. “One of my concerns when we were designing it was that it was going to be below grade and people wouldn't get to see the skyline and people could whiz right through here on their way between Amarillo (Texas) and Fort Smith (Arkansas) and never see it.
“At that point we came up with the concept of the Oklahoma City Skydance (pedestrian) Bridge. This gives people an opportunity to leave Oklahoma City with something positive on their mind. If they've already chosen they're not going to stop here, at least they'll remember it and maybe on their next trip back they'll pull off.”
The roadway is opening to traffic about eight months ahead of schedule.
When it opened, the old Crosstown carried 50,000 vehicles daily. It was designed to carry 76,000 vehicles. The six-lane roadway now carries about 125,000 vehicles a day.
The new Crosstown is designed to handle 173,000 vehicles daily.
U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, said the new roadway will benefit Oklahoma City in many ways.
“The people that do tourism, from east to west, west to east, that will be driving down this great road ... will see the renewal and revitalization of Oklahoma City,” he said.
Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez said the roadway will relieve congestion and improve access to downtown Oklahoma City.
“The completion of this project will make it easier for people to get to work and creates a more productive business and economic environment,” he said.
Work will continue for some time on the project even after the westbound lanes are open for traffic.
The existing Crosstown will be dismantled to make way for building a downtown boulevard. It will take about eight months to take down the elevated roadway. The Transportation Department plans to salvage existing steel beams and offer them to counties across the state.
Work also has to be finished on the I-44 junction on the west side, as well as the I-35 and I-235 junctions on the east side of the corridor. It will take about two years to complete that work.
After the elevated Crosstown is dismantled, work will start on a six-lane downtown boulevard, estimated to cost about $80 million. When the downtown route is built, other exits and entrances will be added to the Crosstown.
“We're very fortunate to be able to design a brand new street to go right through the heart of downtown and we intend to make the most of it,” Cornett said.
“We intend to make it the grandest street this generation has ever seen.”