Some of the thousands of motorists who use Interstate 40 will have a new way to enter downtown Oklahoma City on Friday afternoon.
That's when road crews will open a connection from the highway to the west end of the future Oklahoma City Boulevard.
Work on the nearly $9 million project was completed three months ahead of schedule and will give drivers coming into Oklahoma City from the west additional options for getting in and out of downtown, state transportation officials said.
“This reconnection will provide drivers with additional ramps and start to help alleviate the morning and evening congestion on Western Avenue,” said Joe Echelle, construction engineer for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. “We are very pleased that the contractor is able to deliver it early.”
The opening is expected to be particularly beneficial to Oklahomans who live west of Oklahoma City and commute downtown to work using I-40.
The project was designed to connect the interstate to Oklahoma City Boulevard — a planned, tree-lined grand entryway into Oklahoma City's downtown business district.
While Oklahoma City Boulevard is expected to take several years to complete, the project opening Friday will include the west end of that boulevard.
There will be an immediate benefit for eastbound motorists on the I-40 Crosstown who will have a new, additional exit into downtown Oklahoma City on the corridor's west end.
The exit will provide access to the west end of partially constructed Oklahoma City Boulevard. From there, motorists can reach downtown by exiting on either Virginia Avenue or Klein Avenue, and then heading east on Reno or another east-west street.
Drivers also will immediately benefit from the opening of a new westbound I-40 on-ramp from Oklahoma City Boulevard that they can get on at Klein and Virginia avenues.
Allen Contracting of Oklahoma City did the project, which began in August.
Additional construction is scheduled to begin in early 2014 for the east end reconnection of I-40 Crosstown, near the I-40/ I-235/I-35 Dallas junction, officials said. That project is expected to be completed in the summer of 2015.
Studies currently are being conducted for the center section of the Oklahoma City Boulevard project from Western Avenue to E.K. Gaylord Boulevard and Shields Boulevard. Design decisions will be made following the study.