OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The Oklahoma Transportation Commission paved the way Nov. 3 for construction to begin on a widening project for Interstate 44 in Tulsa when it awarded a $42 million contract for a portion of the project.
The contract — the single most expensive project ever put up for bid by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation — involves construction of an underground drainage structure and frontage road along I-44 and is the first of many contracts that will be awarded for the $330 million widening project, officials said.
ODOT Director Gary Ridley said the project will rebuild a “totally worn-out system” that was designed and built before former President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation that created the nation’s interstate highway system in the 1950s.
The initial project involves a 1.25-mi.-long (2 km) concrete drainage structure 30 ft. (9.1 km) underground that will extend along the north side of I-44 from Riverside Drive to just west of Yorktown Avenue. It will serve as a major drainage structure for the corridor and must be in place before widening work can begin.
The project was awarded to Sherwood Construction Co. of Catoosa, which submitted the low bid, and construction is scheduled to begin early next year. The contract includes incentives to expedite work on the 23-month-long project.
The contract’s cost eclipses a $40.5 million contract for a portion of the $500 million realignment project for the Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway in Oklahoma City that was awarded in September and at the time was the largest single contract ever issued by the agency.
Both the I-40 Crosstown Expressway and the I-44 widening project in Tulsa are scheduled for completion in 2012.
The widening project includes expanding traffic lanes between Riverside Drive and Yale Avenue in Tulsa from four to six and improving on and off ramps at various intersections.
Currently, right-of-way acquisitions and utility relocations are continuing throughout the corridor.
The I-40 realignment will move the existing elevated roadway south to an alignment along the Oklahoma River, opening up land for development between the shore and the city’s core. The highway also will be expanded to 10 lanes.
Originally built in 1965, the expressway carries 120,000 vehicles a day, almost 50,000 more than the intended capacity of 72,000. The roadway has undergone frequent repairs in recent years as holes open in the road deck, dropping concrete to the ground below.