A plan for a new NW 10 exit ramp along Interstate 235 is facing resistance by Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority board members who question whether it will hamper pedestrian access and continued development of the Oklahoma Health Center.
The project calls for the authority to provide easement along the east side of I-235 just south of NW 10, and for the state Transportation Department to free up other nearby land under its control for ongoing development of the Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park.
The design, if approved, will do away with what is known as a “button hook” northbound exit ramp that currently takes traffic onto the Harrison Avenue bridge into downtown. New ramps would provide direct access to both eastbound and westbound NW 10. The buttonhook ramp, meanwhile, would be replaced by what is referred to as a “Texas turnaround” that maintains driver access to Harrison Avenue.
A pedestrian corridor, in current designs, would be created between the NW 10 exit ramp and the Texas turnaround.
The new ramp was sought out by city leaders as part of a 2003 agreement aimed at keeping St. Anthony Hospital in MidTown. But Urban Renewal commissioners, led by Chairman Larry Nichols, questioned whether all objectives were being met with the proposed design.
“The question is, have we really made the hospitals happy, which I'm all for,” Nichols said. “But are we also restricting access to downtown, and pedestrian access and future development?”
Fellow Commissioner Jim Tolbert noted the city is trying to improve pedestrian access along NW 10, which links St. Anthony Hospital with the Oklahoma Health Center.
“This will make it worse,” Tolbert said. “It will be a very unhappy place for pedestrians.”
Nichols asked how a nearby site proposed for a large Presbyterian Health Foundation Research Park office building will be developable if it adjoins NW 10 and a high-speed access ramp.
David Streb, director of engineering for the Transportation Department, said the plans were developed at the request of the city, in conjunction with several constituencies and can still be changed.
“The city of Oklahoma City was successful in getting earmarked federal funds for this project,” Streb said. “This wasn't something ODOT dreamed up. We've been through a series of meetings not only with the Urban Renewal Authority, stakeholders along Automobile Alley and elsewhere on how to come up with this solution.”
Streb said the pedestrian access along the Texas turnaround can be altered into a signalized intersection at NW 10, but that would create an extra delay in accessing downtown and Automobile Alley, via Harrison Avenue.
Urban Renewal commissioners wondered whether their input could kill the project or simply be ignored as they chose to delay voting on approval of the land swaps.
Streb promised the commissioners' concerns will be heard, and said his agency is available to make a presentation if it is requested.