OKC's Population Growth Greater Than Expected

Article excerpt

Oklahoma City planners are searching for 30,000 residents.

Corporate Oklahoma City's population increased to 506,132 in 2000 from 444,719 in 1990, according to the U.S. Census. Projections had placed the city's population at 475,000. Now city planners must figure out where these 30,000 residents live and what their needs and expectations are.

"We're waiting for block statistics that will come out later this year," said City Planning Director John Dugan. Those statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau will reveal block-by-block where growth has been the greatest.

The results could influence how the city provides public services in the coming decade.

While there were about 30,000 more people than expected, the housing count was almost exactly what was expected, he said.

"That means our housing vacancy rate is lower than projections assumed," Dugan said.

Density figures could influence planning for traffic and schools. Dugan said the population change could also affect the city's eligibility for many grants and federal loans. The census results also suggest Oklahoma City has a lower crime rate than previously assumed as well as lower per capita income.

Driving to the U.S. Open

Play may be moving along just fine during the opening days of the U.S. Open in Tulsa, but traffic around the Southern Hills Country Club is backing up like a public course on a sunny Saturday.

The special nature of the event and a crush of out-of-town visitors -- the same things that make the tournament one of Oklahoma's premier sporting events ever -- are vexing to those who commute by the entrance to Southern Hills, Tulsa police Sgt. Mike Garner said.

"It's obviously an unusual occurrence," Garner said. "We've handled the traffic for special events out there before, but every year it seems like it's different."

More traffic seems to be showing up earlier than for previous events, he said, often coinciding with the morning commute.

And although there is a shuttle service operating from Oral Roberts University to the Southern Hills entrance, not all visitors are taking advantage of it, Garner added.

Tournament organizers are encouraging spectators to follow posted signs along the roads and to park only at ORU.

Parking is limited to one side of the street in the residential area around Southern Hills and tow trucks are at the ready to remove the cars of violators.

Meanwhile, Tulsa police officers are working to guide spectators and make sure shuttle buses can travel freely.

"The primary goal is to get people there safely," Garner said. "We're really trying to prevent accidents out there because even a little accident can bring traffic to a halt. We're giving our best effort to move everybody along."

But the traffic isn't bad news to everyone -- especially street- side ticket broker Andrew Hentrich.

"We've got a good spot and plenty of traffic," he said. "That's what we look for. …