Okla. Commission Approves Funds to Develop Corridor Construction Plans

Sun December 10, 2006 - West Edition
Tim Talley - ASSOCIATED PRESS



OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) The Oklahoma Transportation Commission agreed Monday to draw up plans for part of Oklahoma’s portion of the Ports-to-Plains Corridor, a ribbon of north-south roadways that eventually will link seaports in Mexico with Denver and the U.S.-Canada border.

The commission authorized more than $1.6 million for Cobb Engineering Co. to develop final construction plans for a 4-mi. stretch of the highway in Cimarron County in the Oklahoma Panhandle. The $23-million project is expected to begin next year.

“It’s a good project,” state Transportation Director Gary Ridley said after the commission gave the project its unanimous approval. The highway is part of Oklahoma’s eight-year transportation construction plan.

The federal government is paying 80 percent of the project’s cost with the state picking up the rest.

The corridor will use existing portions of U.S. Highway 287 that runs about 40 mi. across the far western Panhandle between Texas and Colorado.

Various improvements are planned to the roadway to prepare it for inclusion in the corridor, especially the segment that runs north from Boise City to the Colorado border, Transportation Department Spokeswoman Terri Angier said.

The segment authorized by the commission will be located east of Boise City and will bypass the Panhandle town, Angier said. The roadway will initially be three lanes including a passing lane, but the agency plans to eventually expand the highway to four lanes, she said.

The concrete roadway is being designed with high-speed truck traffic in mind, Angier said. Currently, two-lane transportation routes create a bottleneck in Boise City. About 4,000 vehicles a day pass through the town and 60 percent of them are trucks, Angier said.

“The highway needs to go around the town,” Ridley said.

Total cost of the Ports-to-Plains project in Oklahoma is estimated at $60 million, including acquisition of rights of way, Angier said.

Conceived under federal legislation, supporters believe the corridor will serve international trade traffic and promote economic development. Freight movement throughout North America is expected to increase by 50 percent in the next 10 years, Angier said.

Commission members also authorized a $3.4-million project to create a new entrance to Vance Air Force Base in Enid and enhance security along the Garfield County base’s southern boundary.

Mike Cooper, a former Enid mayor who now chairs the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission, said the new entrance also will service a proposed new Armed Forces Reserve Center at Vance.

The federal government will pay 80 percent of the cost of the project with the city of Enid paying the balance.