The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA) is undertaking a six-project, $892-million program aimed at addressing congestion and access issues across metropolitan Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
Among the priorities of the bond-funded program, known as “Driving Forward,” is the reconstruction of a 22-mile segment of Interstate 44-Turner Turnpike, the state’s oldest tollway and a key connector between Oklahoma’s two largest cities. To update the 62-year-old, four-lane segment route to accommodate urban traffic loads, the $300-million project will add a new travel lane in each direction. Further, it will provide infrastructure for future lanes dedicated to heavy trucks, which account for 15% of the highway’s current traffic load.
Two other reconstruction projects—9.5 miles of the Muskogee Turnpike ($42 million) and 7.5 miles of the H.E. Bailey Turnpike ($32 million)—include improvements to travel lanes and toll plazas.
New roads to be built under “Driving Forward” are the $300-million Northeast OK County Loop, a 21-mile link between I-40 and I-44/Turner Turnpike, and the 7-mile, $190-million Southwest OKC Kilpatrick Turnpike Extension, which will improve access to Will Rogers World Airport from downtown Oklahoma City.
A third new roadway, the Gilcrease Expressway, will be built as part of a partnership with the city of Tulsa, with OTA contributing $28 million. The 2.5-mile project will complete a western loop around metropolitan Tulsa.
Jack Damrill, a spokesman for the OTA, says bonds for the “Driving Forward” program will be issued in three stages, with the first sale set for the third quarter of 2016. All projects are currently in various stages of design and will be awarded to contractors using design-bid-build project delivery.
Though no construction start date has been set, “we’re hopeful to get as many of the projects underway at the same time as possible,” Damrill says.