At least part of the new Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City could be open as soon as next month, officials said.
The state Transportation Department stopped short of naming a target date Wednesday, but spokeswoman Brenda
The construction project is ahead of schedule. Officials had long targeted 2012 as the year in which the new freeway would open, and of late had been saying it could be open by spring.
The new, 10-lane I-40 runs about five blocks south of the existing freeway — the aging and crumbling Crosstown Expressway — from the Interstate 44 junction to the junction with Interstates 35 and 235.
The $670 million freeway is the most expensive road construction project in state history. Most of it is paid for with federal money. Construction began in 2005.
Final phases near end
Officials have been able to split up the construction of the freeway into several sections, and crews have been able to work on those sections simultaneously. That, plus generally favorable weather and a lack of unforeseen delays, has contributed to getting the work done ahead of schedule, officials said.
“We're obviously on a great pace out there,” said Paul Green, the Transportation Department engineer who oversees the project. “A lot of our major players in our contracting industry are out there working hard to make this happen, and they have a lot of subcontractors who are working seven days a week in a lot of cases.”
It's unlikely officials will be able to open the entire freeway at once, Perry said. Some of the work also depends on the weather, so officials are crossing their fingers the city avoids major winter storms.
“We're expecting that when we can open traffic, it may only be able to have one direction open, and then a couple weeks later have the other direction (open),” Perry said. “But once traffic is fully off of the old highway, we're able to start, and we're wanting to start quickly, on the deconstruction (of the Crosstown Expressway).”
The old freeway will eventually be replaced by a boulevard included in MAPS 3. The boulevard and the MAPS 3 urban park are part of the city's Core to Shore plans, which aim to expand mixed-use development between the current I-40, the Oklahoma River and Bricktown.
Construction is still ongoing on the Skydance Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that will span the new I-40 near Robinson Avenue. Major overhead construction work has to be completed before all lanes of the new freeway will open.
“They're making terrific progress,” Perry said.
Crews working on the bridge should have enough work completed to allow for the opening of at least three lanes of the new I-40 in each direction well before January, city spokeswoman Kristy Yager said. Overheard construction work should be completed by late spring, which would enable officials to open all five lanes in each direction.
The $5.2 million bridge, paid for by bond funds, has a centerpiece sculpture that is intended to evoke the “sky dance” of the scissor-tailed flycatcher, the state bird. It will connect a 70-acre urban park.