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Okla. Governor, Turnpike Authority Launch 'Driving Forward' Project

“The "Driving Forward" plan is about ensuring safe travel, relieving congestion to shorten commutes and sustaining economic development for years to come.

Thu February 04, 2016 - West Edition
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“The "Driving Forward" plan is about ensuring safe travel, relieving congestion to shorten commutes and sustaining economic development for years to come.

Gov. Mary Fallin and The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) announced the launch of “Driving Forward: Investing in Oklahoma's Future,” an extensive expansion and improvement plan that will lay the groundwork for the future of turnpike transportation in Oklahoma.

“The 'Driving Forward' plan is about ensuring safe travel, relieving congestion to shorten commutes and sustaining economic development for years to come,” said Fallin. “As Oklahoma's population grows, it will require a greater commitment to modernizing and improving our transportation infrastructure. Making these investments today will prevent our state from having to respond to a crisis in the future.”

The Driving Forward plan will be a total of six large-scale projects that will modernize, enhance and improve safety, reduce congestion and support population growth on the Turnpike system at an estimated cost of $892 million issued via bonds. Because the project is fully paid for by bonds, it will not affect any part of the state budgeting process and revenue will not be diverted from other state priorities. Planning and preparations will begin immediately, with construction set to begin in the third quarter of 2016.

Gary Ridley, Oklahoma secretary of transportation called the plan “visionary.”

“Mary Fallin realizes that forward progress only happens if we have the roads and transportation system needed to support it,” said Ridley. “I appreciate her providing a transportation vision that will continue to benefit Oklahomans long after she leaves office.”

Kell Kelly, chairman of the OTA board of directors said the plan supports OTA's mission to be forward-thinking.

“Oklahoma's transportation leaders have always been very cognizant about the need to plan for future growth,” said Kelly. “If all we are doing is worrying about the current transportation problems, we have done a real disservice to our kids and grandkids and have not as a board fulfilled the mission of the authority. Our mission is to provide our customers with a choice of a safe, convenient, efficient, user-funded transportation network focusing on fiscal responsibility and promoting economic development.”

Tim Stewart, OTA executive director, said the projects outlined in the Driving Forward plan address issues that need immediate attention.

“We must make plans now for population and economic growth so we can be in a good position for increased traffic that is going to happen in Oklahoma,” said Stewart. “I know there might be some who would like for us to wait, or just do a little at a time, but the need is now and will become stronger in the future to make our system safer and easier for our customers.”

The details for each project are below:

Gilcrease Expressway

• Project Length: 2.5 mi. (4 km)

• Cost: $28 million from OTA and partnership with city of Tulsa

• Type: New road construction

• Overview: This project connects L.L. Tisdale to I-44 and completes the western loop around the Tulsa metro area. It will help relieve urban traffic congestion during peak periods. It also will provide a new and more direct route to city attractions and points of interest in the Tulsa urban core. This will bolster safe access to Tulsa along with economic growth and opportunity.

Muskogee Turnpike

• Project Length: 9.5 mi. (15.2 km)

• Cost: $42 million

• Type: Reconstruction from “ground-up” for safety and modernization of toll plaza

• Overview: This reconstruction will occur between Creek Turnpike interchange and State Highway 51 near Coweta. It will allow for a safer and more drivable surface and provide increased safety features.

Turner Turnpike

• Project Length: 22 mi. (35.4 km)

• Cost: $300 million

• Type: Reconstruction for more lanes and safety features including lights and other future safety enhancements

• Overview: The Turner Turnpike is a vital turnpike corridor that connects Oklahoma's two metro areas. Improving safety and convenience on this road is a priority for the OTA. This reconstruction/safety project will occur between Bristow and the Creek Turnpike West (State Highway 364) section of the Turner Turnpike. In the last five years there have been 15 fatalities and 514 wrecks on this section of road. This project will create an “urban turnpike corridor” with lighting, wider lanes and the addition of lanes. It will allow for the future creation of truck-specific lanes for quick and safe access.

HE Bailey Turnpike

• Project Length: 7.5 mi. (12 km)

• Cost: $32 million

• Type: Turnpike reconstruction for lanes and safety features and toll plaza modernization for better access for PikePass customers

• Overview: This project will provide wider lanes and enhanced safety features for travel as well as improved technology for toll plaza locations for customer convenience between Bridge Creek and North Meridian Avenue near Newcastle.

Southwest OKC

Kilpatrick Extension

• Project Length: 7 mi. (11.3 km)

• Cost: $190 million

• Type: New construction

• Overview: This project will be an extension of the Kilpatrick Turnpike that will connect SW OKC and the metro area at-large with the urban core. It will increase access and offer another route for Will Rogers World Airport. It will occur between I-40 and State Highway 152/Airport Road.

Northeast OK County Loop

• Project Length: 21 mi. (33.8 km)

• Cost: $300 million

• Type: New construction

• Overview: This project will allow for a connection from Eastern Oklahoma County to vital intersections for travel. This will produce a drive-time reduction to access Tulsa from the OKC Metro and a needed new loop to alleviate current congested traffic in the Oklahoma City area. Construction will link I-40 and I-44 (Turner Turnpike) in Eastern Oklahoma County.

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