EL RENO — The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is planning to build a new interchange on Interstate 40 as part of a unique public-private partnership with El Reno and Chesapeake Energy Corp., officials announced Friday.
Gov. Mary Fallin hailed the “historic” $24 million project that will help El Reno continue growing into a new hub for oil and natural gas service companies.
“It is a thriving area for business,” she said.
The state will add an interchange at Radio Road, with a new five-lane bridge straddling the interstate, while the city and Chesapeake will widen the road to four lanes in the area that is home to several of the company's affiliates.
Friday's announcement was made at the new headquarters of Performance Technologies LLC, a pressure pumping company that recently celebrated its first anniversary.
Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon said the new interchange will help El Reno remain an attractive place for the oil and gas industry.
“The Radio Road and I-40 interchange is one of the most rapidly developing and important energy service sector corridors in Oklahoma,” he said. “Chesapeake and our partners are proud to invest alongside the state in a project that equips El Reno and the energy service sector for future growth and increased business.”
City Manager Tony Rivera said El Reno's growth as an energy hub began last year when Schlumberger announced plans to build a new operations center there. Chesapeake and Halliburton followed suit, with a number of smaller companies expanding to handle additional business.
Rivera said the private sector is footing the bill for many of the infrastructure needs associated with the interchange project.
Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley said it is uncommon to add interchanges on Oklahoma's highways. This project was even more complicated because it is on an interstate, meaning federal officials had to sign off on it.
Ridley said the state was eager to get involved in the project when it was pitched by Chesapeake.
“This was an easy decision to make,” he said.
Ridley said the new interchange will improve access to a booming area while making it easier for drivers traveling through the area on I-40.
Work to widen Radio Road is under way now, while Ridley said construction of the new interchange likely will begin in the summer. It is expected to be complete by 2014.