By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Improvements to the I-40 and Douglas Blvd. interchange could happen earlier than expected thanks to a $50 million federal grant.
The U.S. Department of Transportation last week announced it will provide funding for the highway project as part of the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program.
The I-40 Douglas project will include reconstruction of the interchange, widening five miles of I-40 between Douglas Blvd. and I-240 from four to six lanes, vertical clearance improvements for the Anderson and Westminster road bridges, and demolition of the Engle Rd. bridge.
The projects have been included in the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s eight-year construction plan. The interchange replacement is currently scheduled for 2025, and the I-40 widening and Anderson and Westminster bridge projects are slated for 2027. All four will be rescheduled due to the grant.
“We are in the middle of rebalancing the eight-year plan that will be announced in the fall, but the project will be moved up,” said Lisa Shearer-Salim, ODOT public information manager.
The I-40 Douglas interchange will be rebuilt as a Single Point Urban Interchange. The design helps move traffic efficiently and safely in areas with limited space. ODOT used the SPUI design for the I-40 and Morgan Rd. interchange in west Oklahoma City.
The Westminster and Anderson bridges will be improved to increase vertical clearance. The Westminster bridge will be raised up and the Anderson bridge will be reconstructed.
The widening project will expand the interstate from four lanes to six lanes. When completed, I-40 will be six lanes from Shawnee to Oklahoma City.
Transportation officials said the project supports economic vitality by improving safety and reducing travel times. The addition of sidewalks over I-40 will also help alleviate congestion and address safety hazards. The project will use warm-mix asphalt that can be successfully placed in cooler weather, extending the paving season, and making night work more feasible.
ODOT will also receive $50 million for improvements to I-35 Red River Bridge. The state is working with the Texas Department of Transportation on the project that will improve 7.4 miles of I-35 across the Oklahoma and Texas border.
The highly competitive INFRA grants were selected based on several criteria. In addition to prioritizing projects that would improve local economies, create jobs, and meet all statutory requirements, for the first time in USDOT’s history, grants were considered by how they would address climate change, environmental justice, and racial equity.
Demand for INFRA grants far exceeded available funds. USDOT evaluated 157 eligible applications from 42 states, as well as Guam. Applicants collectively requested approximately $6.8 billion in grant funds—more than seven times the funding available.
Members of Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation applauded announcement of the grants.
“The receipt of this tremendous funding will greatly improve and strengthen the ability to move both people and freight in vital commuter and trade corridors while increasing travel safety statewide, said Rep. Tom Cole. “This is great news for Oklahoma, and I was delighted to personally advocate for bringing this essential funding to the district I represent within our state. In the years ahead, I look forward to seeing the incredible statewide benefits of DOT’s generous $100 million investment in these key projects.”
“While Congress continues to discuss a nationwide infrastructure package, grants like these ensure that states can maintain interstate safety or expand infrastructure to meet the needs of Oklahoma businesses and residents,” said Congresswoman Stephanie Bice.
Congress will have 60 days to review the Department’s proposed project awardees. After the 60-day review period, the Department is free to begin obligating funding.