Motorists will again be asked to avoid one of Oklahoma City's busiest intersections beginning this spring and lasting through the year as the next phase of a decade-long upgrade begins.
State transportation officials this week awarded an $8 million contract to Catoosa-based Sherwood Construction to upgrade the ramp that connects eastbound Interstate 44 to southbound Interstate 235.
As many as 93,000 motorists a day use the intersection of the two highways.
This portion of the project could take as long as nine months, said Terri Angier, spokeswoman for Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
It will bring about the permanent closure of the I-235 southbound exit ramp to NW 50 and the closure of I-235 in its entirety for as long as two days this summer, Angier said.
“The good news is that there are alternatives around this interchange,” she said.
Plans are to widen and slightly reposition the ramp to give vehicles more room to access the ramp on I-44 and exit onto I-235. Angier said workers will also upgrade the roadways leading to and from the ramps on both highways.
A similar ramp redesign last year in the northwest quadrant of the intersection cost $23 million and took a full year to complete.
The projects together comprise the first of seven total remodel phases at the intersection, a 10-year project that will likely cost more than $200 million once complete.
The overarching goal is to relieve congestion and reduce accidents in an intersection that was built when traffic was not nearly as heavy as it is today, Angier said.
Life span outlived
I-44, opened in 1978, carries the largest number of vehicles of any highway in Oklahoma County, and both Broadway Extension and I-235 have exceeded their life span and capacity over the past several years.
The interchange's cloverleaf design is not conducive to the heavy traffic load, Angier said, and will be replaced with wider lanes and a set of flyover bridges.
It is not uncommon during peak hours for traffic to be backed up several miles in each direction north and south on I-235 and Broadway Extension as vehicles push through the bottleneck.