Two state legislators who represent downtown Oklahoma City say they're monitoring the debate over a planned boulevard set to replace the old Interstate 40.
The state Transportation Department is continuing with plans to rebuild the boulevard as an elevated roadway for five blocks east of Western Avenue. In interviews with The Oklahoman, all members of the Oklahoma City Council have indicated they do not support building the elevated structure.
State Sen. Al McAffrey said Monday he has visited with Gary Ridley, state Transportation Department director, and said he was assured state highway engineers will not force city officials to accept a road they do not want.
“I'm waiting to see what comes out,” McAffrey said. “They are willing to do what the city wants — as long as it is in the current right of way.”
Rep. Richard Morrissette, meanwhile, is urging the Transportation Department to slow down on the project, which Ridley says must be completed by 2014 unless he is formally told otherwise by City Manager Jim Couch.
“If people have serious concerns, we need to slow this down a bit,” Morrissette said.
“My real concern is with any design or structure that in any way divides south Oklahoma City with the rest of the city. That happened in the past with Interstate 40, and my concern is that this be designed so that people can get around and it be as little restrictive as possible.”
A grass-roots advocacy group, Friends for a Better Boulevard, is fighting to have the design work halted and to look at how the road can be kept at grade. The group argues the elevated structure will hamper redevelopment of the area southeast of Classen Boulevard and Sheridan Avenue.
Morrissette said highway engineers should be more concerned about coming up with the right design instead of completing the project by 2014.
“What is the big, fired-up hurry to get things finalized before we hear from those concerned?” Morrissette asked.
“They're saying you just can't change final plans overnight, that it takes time to change, and I understand that … but as the old saying goes, measure twice, cut once.”