Oklahoma City Council members are seeking to hire an independent traffic engineer to examine possible options for building a new downtown boulevard at grade instead of it being elevated as proposed by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
State highway engineers listened but said nothing as council members questioned City Manager Jim Couch and Public Works Director Eric Wenger about the state's plans to build an elevated boulevard in the same path as the recently removed elevated Interstate 40 between Western and Walker Avenues.
“This isn't a project that began yesterday,” Wenger told the council. “It began back in 1995 when there was a project study approved. … Downtown has undergone a lot of change. We had the original MAPS completed, we have Project 180, we have Maps 3.”
Wenger acknowledged the conflict involved in designing a road that doubles as a freeway and a pedestrian-friendly boulevard that will spur new development in blighted areas south of downtown.
“When we talk about the boulevard, it's more than a new bypass for I-40,” he said. “It's a new entrance for downtown.”
Mayor Mick Cornett was among those asking if the elevated sections at the west and east boulevard connections to the new I-40 can be shortened. Cornett said he foresees a time when both areas will develop and need more at-grade access.
“The sooner we can get it to grade for a potential intersection, the better off for future generations it will be,” Cornett said.
No man's land
Planning Director Russell Claus urged that the area surrounding the historic Farmers Market at 311 S Klein not be cut off from the boulevard.