NORMAN — A plan to widen W Lindsey Street from three to four lanes has business owner Tim Sweatte concerned that his drive-in restaurant may suffer economically from the change.
Classic 50’s Drive-In has been in the same location at 1521 W Lindsey for 57 years, Sweatte said.
“It’s been a successful run. Lindsey was still a dirt road when my father, Juel Glenn Sweatte, opened it as Glenn’s Drive-In,” Sweatte said.
The drive-in later was operated for 28 years as a Sonic, until becoming the Classic 50’s Drive-In in 1985. Its main business — at least, 80 percent — is college students, Sweatte said.
Widening Lindsey to four lanes between 24th Avenue SW and Berry Road, with a landscaped median, will mean cars leaving his drive-in will have to exit west away from the University of Oklahoma campus.
“Will college students like that? Most of them are needing to go east toward campus,” he said. “Right now, drivers can choose to go either east or west. I’m two-dimensional. I feel like they are trying to make me one-dimensional.”
His concerns are shared by McDonald’s franchisee Kevin Brennan, who says his drive-in at 1720 W Lindsey relies on ease of entrance-exit and high visibility, to draw in its customer base.
Widening Lindsey may improve the ease of getting in or out of the drive-in, “or it may not. I simply can’t tell,” Brennan said. “If it improves it, it’s a win. If not, then it hurts us a lot.”
Both Sweatte and Brennan are concerned that landscaping in the median also will reduce their visibility.
“McDonald’s is kind of an impulse-buy type of place. You see it and then decide to stop, so visibility is very important to us,” said Brennan.
Sweatte and Brennan were among business owners, property owners and city residents who flocked to an informational meeting about the widening project Thursday at Sooner Legends, sponsored by the city, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and consultants working on the plan.
Voters approved a $42 million bond issue in August 2012 to pay for eight transportation projects, including widening W Lindsey and fixing long-standing drainage problems, particularly at Lindsey and McGee Drive.
“I grew up walking through the waters of Lake McGee to get to middle school, and I’ve seen my share of Lindsey Street accidents, so this project is near and dear to my heart,” Councilman Tom Kovach said.
Lindsey between 24th Avenue SW and Berry is a three-lane roadway with one of the highest accident rates in the city. The project would widen it to a divided four-lane roadway, with U-turns situated at 1/8-mile intervals. The roadway would have a landscaped median, dedicated bike lanes and dedicated public bus turnouts, pedestrian walkways and pedestrian shelters.
Included in the plan is a new bridge across Imhoff Creek, just east of Berry, which would serve as a transition point for the roadway to two-lane traffic. The bridge would have bike lanes and pedestrian walkways.
Drainage problems will be addressed with a boxed storm drainage diversion system that would carry water to the S Canadian River.
The widening project is being coordinated with state Transportation Department work on the Lindsey/Interstate 35 interchange, which means all the construction is expected to be done by the fall of 2016. It also means federal dollars are available to help pay for the drainage work.
Project Manager Duane Kranz with Leidos consultants said utility relocations for the project are due to begin by summer, with construction to start by spring or summer of 2015.
Doyle Pryor, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church, 1717 W Lindsey, said he dreads the construction phase of the project because it may hurt church attendance.
“But there’s no way to improve the street without it being hard on everyone. I don’t envy the project managers because I don’t envy anyone who has to make that many people happy. I don’t think they will be able to make everyone happy,” Pryor said.
Mark Hensley, associate pastor at Bethel, said he looks forward to the drainage problems being solved.
“We’ve dealt with Lake McGee for years. We’ve hoped for a solution to that for a long time,” Hensley said.
Gateways consultant Brad Lonenberger said he wants property owners to see the economic benefits of the improvements.
“Some businesses may choose to relocate, but others will see the advantages. There will be people wanting to buy your property, because there will be new opportunities along Lindsey,” he said.