Consultants will reveal in December a design recommendation for the Oklahoma City Boulevard that represents a compromise between ideas that had competing priorities related to traffic movement and redevelopment potential, the city's top engineer said.
Oklahoma City and the consulting firm Stantec are hosting a meeting at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Coca-Cola Bricktown Events Center, 425 E California Ave., to reveal the design recommendation. The meeting is open to the public.
As plans for the boulevard have started to take shape, many metro residents favored a roadway that maximized the potential for redevelopment, but others felt moving traffic in and out of downtown should take priority, and designs that prioritize one of those ideas usually have elements that come at the expense of the other.
City Engineer and Public Works Director Eric Wenger said he couldn't be specific about what consultants are recommending while they finalize their report, and he prefers to have the design unveiled for the first time at the meeting. But he was clear that the worst fears of supporters on either side of the debate won't be realized.
“They (the consultants) have come up with concepts that modify the boulevard that enhance planning for future development, but also maintain traffic flow in the area,” Wenger said.
Potential designs for a complicated intersection west of downtown have proved to be the most controversial element of the boulevard, leading to Stantec being hired by the city to study as many designs as possible to find the best solution, Wenger said.
The boulevard, which will follow the path of the old Crosstown Expressway currently under demolition, passes through the intersection of Reno and Western avenues and Classen Boulevard. The first design plans presented by city and state officials showed a roadway that is elevated on berms.
The elevated roadway was sharply criticized by those who said the boulevard's primary function should be to spur development. Opponents of the elevated road prefer an at-grade road to make the boulevard an attractive place for a housing development, shop or restaurant.
But the camp supportive of a boulevard with a primary purpose of helping commuters get to and from their jobs pointed to traffic-clogged downtown intersections and freeway ramps as evidence the road should be designed with traffic movement at the forefront.
The first public meeting regarding the roadway, hosted by the state Transportation Department, provided a venue for hundreds of metro residents to learn about plans for the boulevard and voice their opinions. Most of the people who attended the first meeting seemed to favor a narrow roadway with slow traffic that is friendly to commercial development.
The Transportation Department still plans at least one more public meeting to reveal design plans for other sections of the boulevard, including how many lanes wide it will be and what it might look like closer to the core of downtown.
After the Dec. 3 meeting, city staff will work to finalize a recommendation to the Oklahoma City Council for the western section, and include public feedback generated by the meeting. Wenger said it could be presented to the council for approval before the end of the year.
Wenger added that consultants considered about 40 potential designs before making their recommendation. To illustrate his point that consultants tried to think of everything, he revealed that even scrapping the boulevard altogether was considered, although that idea was quickly dismissed.
“They looked at every opportunity,” Wenger stressed. “Everything was on the table.”
The boulevard is scheduled for completion in 2014. Development already planned for properties that border its route include the MAPS 3 urban park and convention center.