OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The end is in sight for central Oklahoma motorists who have endured nine years of construction projects, but the completion date may be nearly another decade down the road.
Projects to expand Interstate 235 and U.S. Highway 77, or the Broadway Extension, began in 1998, and are not expected to be done until 2016, Department of Transportation officials said.
But once finished, the projects will create a corridor capable of handling the traffic load of a modern metropolitan area. Approximately 90,000 vehicles now travel through parts of the corridor daily, though some portions yet to be expanded were built for only about 50,000, according to the department.
“It’s going to be a huge, huge improvement for commuters,” ODOT spokeswoman Terri Angier said.
Rush-hour traffic presently slows to a crawl at some points of the corridor, particularly near the construction zone at Northwest 36th Street and just south of Northwest 63rd Street before the Interstate 44 interchange.
The expanded corridor will be able to handle 170,000 vehicles a day, Angier said. It will have at least six lanes at all points from Edmond to downtown Oklahoma City, and a new I-44 interchange will feature flyover ramps similar to the bridges connecting the Kilpatrick Turnpike to other area highways. Longer merging lanes and ramps also will be a feature of the new roads.
A project slated to begin in 2014 will expand I-235 between Northwest 36th and Northwest 50th streets, Angier said. The $30 million project will include bigger ramps and merge lanes, as well as noise walls.
Angier said funding problems caused the expansion to begin a decade later than ODOT officials had planned.
The new I-44 interchange has an estimated construction cost of $150 million, which doesn’t include right of way, utility and other costs, she said.
The department has yet to secure all the money for the interchange expansion, but Angier said that isn’t a concern yet because not every phase of the project is in the department’s eight-year work plan.
In January, department officials will be able to include 2016 on the eight-year work plan and will then have a better idea of what type of funding will be available for projects that year.