OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Officials kicked off construction Nov. 14 on the relocation of Interstate 40 through downtown Oklahoma City, a $360-million project to replace a worn stretch of highway.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the state’s largest transportation project is the culmination of more than a decade of efforts by local, state and congressional leaders to replace the Crosstown, a stretch of I-40 originally built to carry 72,000 vehicles per day and now carrying 120,000.
The expressway is being expanded from six lanes to 10 lanes and the project also called for a new six-lane boulevard through downtown Oklahoma City. Economic development and recreational projects are planned along with the road improvements.
Gov. Brad Henry took note of a wide range of economic activity already under way in Oklahoma City, which he called the state’s top economic engine.
“This will fine tune that economic engine and keep it at high speed,” Henry said.
Gary Ridley, director of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, hailed work by U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, U.S. Reps. Ernest Istook, Frank Lucas and others in advancing the project. Istook and Lucas attended the ceremony.
Inhofe was unable to attend but sent a representative. In a statement, Inhofe said progress and jobs require a solid transportation system and I-40 is at the heart of the Oklahoma system.
“The Crosstown Expressway is the biggest bridge in the state and it’s needed this fix for an awfully long time,” Inhofe said. “It’s gratifying to play a key role in something that helps so many Oklahomans and will bring so many visitors here.”
Istook, in his remarks, said the dedication was a milestone in the city and state’s economic development.
He also noted that all of the $300 million committed for the project so far comes from the federal government.
“Governor and mayor, it’s time that we have some other people join in the partnership for funding,” he said to Henry and Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. He said state and city officials had been cooperative but “haven’t written the checks.”
Henry later said the state was fully committed to filling any gaps in funding for the project and seeing that it is finished in a timely fashion.
The dedication was held near the Land Run Monument on the eastern edge of downtown near where one of three bridges will be built over the Bricktown Canal.
Construction of the bridges is expected to take about a year and will allow the city to complete plans to connect the north and south ends of the canal. The next phase of the project will be a temporary railroad bridge for the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway.
Ridley said the entire project will take approximately three years to complete.