Newsmaker Q&A: Eric Wenger, Oklahoma City public works director

Newsmaker Q&A with Eric Wenger, Oklahoma City public works director.
by William Crum Modified: September 10, 2013 at 6:00 pm •  Published: September 9, 2013

From readers

Q: Why is it taking so long to fix NW 23 between Portland and Meridian avenues?

— Mark Woodruff

A: NW 23 Street is being constructed in three phases. The first of those phases is underway now. Phasing mitigates some of the traffic concerns by not tearing up too much at once. It is a streetscape project so it will be coming with enhanced sidewalks, enhanced lighting opportunities, landscaping and some other amenities that you wouldn't find on a typical roadway widening or a typical roadway resurfacing. There is a short section from Interstate 44 to Portland that we received a number of complaints on. The city did do some advance maintenance on that section of road until the time that the streetscape project will be there in the next 18 to 24 months.

Q: What happened to the project for the south side called Envision 240?

— Kathy Ward

A: Envision 240 is a concept that came from the South Oklahoma City Chamber to look at and study opportunities on how to remake the Interstate 240 corridor. There was a walkability workshop earlier this summer where Dan Burden, a national walkability expert (walklive.org), visited Oklahoma City. It's not a funded project, so it's still in that concept phase with much to be determined. Projects like Envision 240 wouldn't be a lot different from significant streetscape projects where it would require a bond issue. It would also be one that we would be very closely coordinating with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. There's a lot of work ahead but it is underway.

Q: Why will the city not repair streets in Ski Island?

— Rob Anderson

A: There are a portion of the streets in Ski Island that are private streets. They're maintained by the homeowners' association — most readers might be familiar or more familiar with gated communities, which almost always are private streets. Unfortunately, the city can't maintain them. There's some that are not gated that are private, also. You'll know them in Oklahoma City because they'll have a white sign with green letters instead of a green sign with white letters. So we actually identify our private streets with white signs. That's one way to help our street maintenance crews. There's been a number of streets in Oklahoma City unfortunately that we maybe have maintained in the past without the knowledge of them being private. Having better GIS systems and when we get work requests we find out that they're private, now people are wondering, ‘You took care of my street for 10 years, why aren't you doing it any more?' We just realized it wasn't public and we can't.

by William Crum
Reporter
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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Personally speaking

Eric Wenger has been Oklahoma City's Public Works director for two years. He leads a department with nearly 400 employees and an annual budget of $79 million. Here's an introduction:

Education: Attended the University of Oklahoma, earning a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering.

Experience: Began work for Oklahoma City as a junior civil engineer in May 1994. He's been with the city ever since, with the exception of a brief stint as a staff engineer with Johnson & Associates.

Certifications: He is a registered professional engineer and a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Public Works Association.

Honors: Wenger was Oklahoma City employee of the year in 1995 and listed as a rising star by Forty Under 40 in 2005.

Responsibilities: Besides Public Works, Wenger oversees the city's 2007 General Obligation Bond Issue projects — mostly street projects — and downtown's Project 180 streetscapes initiative.

Fun fact: Wenger is a champion radio-controlled model airplane pilot.

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