Oklahoma City Council approves compromise plan for downtown boulevard

The Oklahoma City Council voted 7-2 to approve a plan that would send the boulevard over a combined Classen-Western road via bridge. Several residents and at least one city councilman asked the city to continue studying options before approving plan.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Zcampfield@opubco.com Modified: January 8, 2013 at 8:31 pm •  Published: January 8, 2013

Shadid said he is not opposed to a boulevard but said the roadway could be designed to mesh with the current downtown street grid instead.

He asked the council to delay the vote until further studies could determine whether a “no build” option would also improve downtown traffic and business development.

“To refuse to study and run traffic simulations of that conceptualization … is tantamount to predetermining the outcome,” Shadid said. “It's premature to choose Option A, which has an elevated bridge, which is going to limit north-south movement, which is going to have adverse economic development impacts and potentially is going to cause the very congestion you set out to resolve.”

He said he was concerned the decision would be further delayed by the feds because the process was subverted.

Councilman Pete White cast the other negative vote at Tuesday's meeting.

White said he will support the project, but that he believes the city and its elected officials could have done more due diligence in studying the different options for the boulevard.

"I'm giong to vote against this today not because I'm not pleased with what's gone on to this point; I'm going to vote against it because I think we can do better," he said. "There are options out there that could enhance this situation and I don't believe we are following up on them."

Public opposition

Of four residents who took to the podium at Tuesday's meeting, only one was in support of the approved plan.

“We need this boulevard as an ingress-egress for our business; at the same time, part of our opportunity is development, so we need access of pedestrian traffic and access for movement within that area,” said Fred Hall, chairman and chief executive of Hall Capital, a former chairman of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and a downtown property owner.

Bob Kemper, spokesman for a group that supports meshing the boulevard with the current grid, said the council was acting outside the bounds of public interest.

“I think I can unequivocally say that the overwhelming majority of people in Oklahoma City want this boulevard returned to some sort of grid,” Kemper said. “The curvilinear section is going to divide north and south again (and) the elevated portion is something they don't want.”

Wenger said the city will turn its recommendation over to the state and then proceed with further design planning for the boulevard.

Though the project was delayed six months while the council deliberated the revisions, Wenger said he anticipates construction could begin on the two boulevard ends and for a railroad underpass near Bricktown as soon as next year.