Oklahoma City Council debates future of boulevard

A debate on the future of the Oklahoma City Boulevard at Tuesday's council meeting showed that some council members still have concerns, but many consider the roadway's evolving design as evidence the city's public process is working.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL mkimball@opubco.com Published: December 5, 2012
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Marrs noted the city is hoping for more business development downtown in future years, along with the coveted residential development.

“It's not that we're ignoring anything that's going on, but we still have to create a system that gets people into and out of this metropolitan area that we not only have created but that we still continue to create,” Marrs said. “I think to disregard the boulevard as a key factor in ultimately how the new I-40 operates is a mistake.”

Compromise

White and Pat Ryan were among council members who took care to point out the changing nature of the boulevard already. Preliminary designs called for a roadway more like the Northwest Expressway, but the newest designs are for a four-lane road with at least some street-side parking, landscaping and improvements to aid pedestrians.

Other designs are friendlier still to pedestrians and cyclists and development, while some are obviously intended with traffic movement as the primary concern.

The reason why consultants and city engineers label the current recommended design as a compromise is because the western end of the boulevard features a raised roadway only at an overpass above Western Avenue, not for a much longer stretch as previously planned.

And though discussions are ongoing, Ryan suggested that advocates on both sides should get used to the idea of a compromise design.

“It's going to be a compromise. We won't solve the problems 100 percent in either direction, but it's going to be somewhere down the middle hopefully, and we'll get something that works,” Ryan said.

The boulevard, scheduled for completion in 2014, will follow the path of the old Crosstown Expressway.

Civic leaders intend for it to be a scenic gateway into downtown as well as a commuter's route to and from work, and cornerstone for civic projects like the MAPS 3 convention center and urban park will be along its borders.

There are more public meetings planned between now and the spring, when the city will likely make a recommendation on the design to the state Transportation Department, which will forward it to federal transportation authorities for final approval. And the continuing talks are what people like White are counting on to fine tune the boulevard's design.

“This is a victory for us as a city that we've gone through this process and made positive changes thus far, and I think we need to just stay the course,” White said.