WAGONER, Okla. (AP) A series of proposals would widen and reroute Oklahoma Highway 51, but doing so could damage the local economy of Wagoner, officials said.
Mayor James Jennings said most local businesses are either near the intersection of Oklahoma 51 and U.S. 69 or in the downtown business district east and south of that intersection.
“It’ll have an immediate impact if they bypass the entire city,” Jennings said. “It will take 10 to 12 years to get the development around the new interchanges to the point where the sales tax revenue is back on track.”
More than 65 people earlier this week attended an Oklahoma Department of Transportation meeting, where three plans for rerouting and widening the highway to four lanes were presented.
In the original plan, Oklahoma 51 would turn south at a county road for about 3.5 mi. (5.6 km), then east approximately 7.5 mi. (12 km) before connecting with its original route east of the city.
Another plan varies from the first proposal in that Oklahoma 51 would intersect U.S. 69 as it does now, then overlap with U.S. 69 headed south before turning east.
Wagoner officials like another plan, which maintains the existing main intersection, but proposes that Oklahoma 51 turn east at 15th Street along the southern edge of the downtown district. It would follow that path for about a mile before turning south and then east to connect to the original route east of the city.
“We feel like that’s a viable option,” Jennings said. “It would allow us to maintain some of our traffic on U.S. 69. We’re hoping they’ll meet us halfway. We’ve got a Wal-Mart there (at the highway intersection), car dealerships, restaurants and a new Walgreens under construction.”
Jennings said there also is an ongoing effort by community groups to restore the downtown area as a tourism attraction.
“The highway department’s priority is to get people from point A to point B as fast and as safely as possible,” he said. “It’s not time to panic; it’s time to keep the lines of communication open. I’m sure they’ll weigh everything and try to please the greatest number of people.”
David Meuser, ODOT spokesman, said it’s too early to know when the project will start or how much it will cost.
Approximately 10,000 vehicles travel that highway a day, Meuser said.