Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

A Road Controversy

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

A Road Controversy

Article excerpt

Rebuilding Interstate 40 through downtown Oklahoma City rapidly is becoming a political football -- or rather it's becoming controversial over its political correctness.

Does the Crosstown Expressway define the southern boundary of downtown and, if so, is it an impediment to development south of the highway?

If answers to these two questions are yes, does the Oklahoma Department of Transportation really care and should this be a consideration if the 30-year-old elevated highway is rebuilt? Is it politically correct to consider what changes will occur -- both good and bad -- when the highway is moved? Planners with both the City of Oklahoma City and the state transportation department say that yes, they do care about these types of issues and they are definitely considered in the planning process. Recommendations from three committees have narrowed the route alternatives to two -- one using basically the same alignment it's been on for 30 years and the other about 1/2-mile to the south. Therein lies a controversy. Rebuilding the elevated bridge with variations of its present alignment -- and it must be rebuilt -- probably would end up being the most expensive of the two alternatives. It also will definitely be the most expensive in terms of time lost by those who use the highway. Tie-ups, detours and reduction to one lane both ways would be common. But, the highway would still be perceived as giving great access to downtown Oklahoma City, one thing that's needed to ensure the success of the Metropolitan Area Projects. Since construction began on this highway back in the early 1960s, it has served as a natural barrier, the southern boundary to downtown. Although it wasn't a physical barrier because most of the city's north-south streets ran under it with no impediment to traffic. Still, it was a physiological barrier and usually kept downtown development confined within a defined core area. Building a new structure along a similar alignment would require more right of way, because when completed the new highway will have five lanes in each direction -- up from three -- with two of them being express lanes for through traffic. …

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