OKLAHOMA CITY –A two-mile stretch of Douglas Blvd. will be closing to accommodate expansion of Tinker Air Force Base.
The expansion is on the southeast part of the base along Douglas Blvd. from SE 44th to SE 74th streets. A portion of SE 59th and 49th streets will also be closed just east of Douglas Blvd. The closure is expected to happen in late 2022 or early 2023.
The new perimeter would protect existing Department of Defense assets on the east side of Douglas, placing them securely inside the perimeter fence.
Officials of the Oklahoma Industries Authority and Greater Oklahoma City Chamber announced a plan Thursday to facilitate Tinker’s ability to enhance security and safety, while also creating an opportunity for future mission growth.
“Since 1941, Tinker has been a cornerstone of our city’s economic base,” explained Clay Bennett, chairman of the Oklahoma Industries Authority (OIA). “This base is arguably our most important economic asset, and it is vital that we do everything necessary to secure its safety and plan for its needs.”
Oklahoma Industries Authority has acquired 220 acres east of Douglas Blvd. to provide for additional Department of Defense missions and to attract additional private sector jobs. No private property would be impacted by the road closure.
“We have been in conversation with Tinker officials about the issues of security for some time,” said Sean Trauschke, chair of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. “We always want to think ahead and plan for any concerns that might jeopardize operations. At the same time, we want to look for any opportunities that make the base attractive for new missions. We did that with the former GM plant and then the BNSF rail yard. That work has been instrumental to base expansion, and we believe this work will do the same.”
Tinker AFB is the center of the aviation industry in Oklahoma City, and the industry is a primary driver of diversification beyond oil and gas. There are more than 26,000 people employed on the base, and the annual economic impact on the region is approximately $4.83 billion. Job growth in the last 10 years has been responsible for growing population and average incomes in the region, according to a study recently released by the Chamber.
The realigned perimeter also presents an opportunity for the base to redesign its current gates, making them more efficient and safer in managing the daily load of vehicles. The new gates would prevent the long backups that currently extend onto the interstates during commute times.
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt applauded the move. “As we continue to facilitate the growth of Tinker, this is a necessary and important next step. We cannot overlook the security enhancements and the need to encompass all operations inside the security perimeter, nor can we miss the opportunity to position the base for more workload. This is simply the right thing to do.”
Brian Maughan, chairman of the Oklahoma County Commissioners agreed. “Time and again our community has stepped up to support Tinker and this another one of those times for us to make a small sacrifice for long term gains. These changes are important to the Air Force, and they are important to Oklahoma County.”
U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe also voiced his support for the project.
“As a longtime advocate of Tinker Air Force Base, I am incredibly proud of the announcement that OIA will acquire 220 acres to continue Tinker’s mission of defending our nation,” Inhofe said. “Tinker is vital to the Oklahoma City community and our state as a whole—creating billions of dollars in economic impact and thousands of jobs. It should come as no surprise that Oklahoma is continuing to invest in this vital military installation so it can acquire and support new missions. I look forward to continuing to fight for Tinker here in Congress as they thrive and expand. Congratulations to Oklahoma City—this is yet another example demonstrating how Oklahoma is the most military friendly state in the country.”