By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
Plans to close a major roadway near Tinker Air Force Base caused quite a stir in Midwest City last week.
Oklahoma City leaders recently announced plans to close a two-mile stretch of Douglas Blvd. between SE 44th and SE 74th streets to accommodate expansion of Tinker Air Force Base. A portion of SE 59th and 49th streets will also be closed just east of Douglas Blvd.
Tinker Air Force Base and the section of Douglas Blvd. are located within the city limits of Oklahoma City.
The closure is expected to happen in late 2022 or early 2023.
The base expansion will protect existing Department of Defense assets on the east side of Douglas Blvd. by bringing them inside the perimeter. It will also provide space for a new maintenance depot to service the B-21 Raider program. The new stealth bomber will replace the B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers. They will be stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
Local residents express support for growth at Tinker AFB but are concerned about the road closure’s impact on the area. Douglas Blvd. is a primary road used to access the base and it links I-40 and I-240. The project could shift traffic to Post Rd. which is a two lane road in the area.
Oklahoma City officials say they understand the concerns and are studying the issues and ways to improve traffic safety and flow. The base is expected to add a gate on the north and south ends of the closed portion of Douglas Blvd. that will serve much of the personnel.
“Douglas will still be open to base traffic, but not everyone is using the road to get on base and need to make sure those users are accommodated,” said Eric Wenger, Oklahoma City Public Works Director. “We will look at infrastructure in the area, traffic potential and relocations. All of that will be part of the review to come.”
Oklahoma City Planning Commission and City Council must approve the plans to close the part of Douglas Blvd. The Planning Commission could take up the proposal next month with it then moving on to the City Council in October of November.
The proposal must then pass through the Oklahoma County District Court.
“The road closure won’t take place for a while and that gives the city time to plan and make necessary road improvements,” said Cynthia Reid with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.
Tim Lyon, city manager of Midwest City, said he’s received feedback from residents and local leaders about the decision to close part of Douglas Blvd. but is confident Oklahoma City will address the issue.
“I have yet to hear a plan from Oklahoma City on how they will handle residential traffic and those coming from I-40 and I-240,” he said. “They’ll need to develop a long term investment plan.”
Lyon said despite concerns about the roads, expansion of the base is a positive for the community and state.
“When the base expands, it adds more jobs, helps local businesses and creates residential growth,” he said. “There is a great deal of positives as we go through this process.”