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Southeast turnpike extension announced


By Ryan Horton

Choctaw Times

 

$5 billion, 15-year plan to expand state’s toll roads revealed

 

The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has officially announced plans to expand the state’s turnpike system as part of a 15-year project themed, Advancing and Connecting Communities and Economies Safely Statewide.

The announcement wasn’t a surprise to many eastern Oklahoma County residents that witnessed the process of constructing the Kickapoo Turnpike in recent years.

After listening to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s recent praise of the impact of the Kickapoo Turnpike on the region during his State of the State address, it was clear state officials were committed to completing their Oklahoma City area outer loop plans.

They now have a timeline. Officials say the best routes and letters to property owners should be going out within the next year.

ACCESS Oklahoma has a projected $5 billion price tag and like other OTA projects will be funded by bonds instead of the state’s budget.

The project follows right in line with what the Driving Forward initiative started. That project funded eastern Oklahoma County’s Kickapoo Turnpike.

Now plans call to extend the Kickapoo Turnpike at I-40 south to I-35 near Purcell.

Continuing the modern transportation practices started with the eastern Oklahoma County project, the expansion will include more interchanges than traditional turnpikes, providing greater access to local communities.

Plans include interchanges at Choctaw Road, I-40, Franklin Road, Alameda Drive, Etowah Road, SH-9, US-77 and I-35.

A second project includes a new east-west turnpike connecting the east and west through the south side of the OKC metro.

The plan is to connect the southeast corridor extension to I-35 and then run a new toll stretch to I-44 on the southwest side. Interchanges are planned at the east side connector, Douglas/48th Street, Sooner Road/SH-77, Broadway, I-35, 36th Avenue NW, Western/60th Avenue NW and I-44.

“ACCESS Oklahoma is a strategic corridor plan that focuses on travel time reliability, easing congestion in our metro areas, moving freight across the state and adding access to communities that previously were not connected to turnpikes,” said Tim Gatz, Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation. “Addressing these needs will directly impact citizens’ quality of life while enhancing the state’s infrastructure for future growth. But most importantly, each of these projects will improve highway safety for motorists.”

While state officials are excited to improve safety, travel times and economic development with high-speed toll road improvements, vocal opposition remains to turnpike expansion and even the existence of the OTA.

The initial eastern loop project saw plenty of protest. That’s likely to pick up again as completing the southeast extension and a new toll road through the south side of the metro area is sure to cross more populated areas than the route of the Kickapoo Turnpike.

Harrah inspires transportation improvements throughout state

Governor Kevin Stitt recently referenced Harrah during his fourth State of the State address.

During the recent speech, Gov. Stitt expressed his hope to bring recent success experienced in Harrah to communities throughout the state.

“The Kickapoo Turnpike has been open east of Oklahoma City for a year now. It has caused an economic explosion for the City of Harrah,” said Stitt. “In the last year, more than 2,200 homes have started construction. Harrah’s first hotel opened in November, and the city estimates its population will almost double in three to four years. We have an opportunity to bring that kind of growth to more cities all across our state.”

A major difference between the state’s existing turnpikes and the newly constructed Kickapoo Turnpike was community involvement during the planning and building process.

While being opposed by many local residents, city and community leaders made the effort to work with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority resulting in an increased number of access ramps.

The new toll road features four interchanges, between I-40 and I-44, including SE 29th Street, Reno Avenue, NE 23rd Street and Britton Road.

Officials say those access points make traveling easier for locals and also create the opportunity for economic development. Development brings services and opportunities to be enjoyed by residents, while generating needed sales tax revenue that’s used to help local communities fund infrastructure repairs and improvements while expanding city services.

The Governor was excited to see recent economic development brought to eastern Oklahoma County by the completion of the Kickapoo Turnpike, and he hopes investment in infrastructure statewide can help other communities see similar growth.

“The future of our economy will depend on having a modern highway system that manages congestion and has reliable travel times. Let’s be bold,” said Stitt. “I’m calling to invest $13 billion in transportation over the next 10 years.”

Among several highway improvements planned, closing a full eastern loop remains a top priority.

Before being designated as the Kickapoo Turnpike, the new toll road had a long conceptual history and was referred to as the eastern Oklahoma County loop. The current Kickapoo Turnpike is the northeast corridor of that project.

A southeast expansion could be a major step to further alleviate traffic congestion inside Oklahoma City.

Officials say outer highway loops would allow for alternate routes connecting south OKC, Moore and Norman areas with the north OKC, Edmond and Tulsa areas.

“This will close the loops around Oklahoma City and Tulsa. We will widen the Turner to six lanes the entire way, we’ll expand the Will Rogers in Northeast Oklahoma and parts of the Kilpatrick in Oklahoma City,” explained Stitt. “We’re also adding more access points for communities all along our system. This will make travel easier and lead to more economic development all across the state.”

During the last four years, Gov. Stitt has been outspoken on his belief Oklahoma is a top 10 state.
Looking at the recent success in Harrah and the planned development throughout eastern Oklahoma County, Stitt is convinced more investment in highway improvements can make Oklahoma No. 1 in transportation.

“This is our moment to make the Oklahoma transportation system the very best in the entire country,” said Stitt.

Not long after the governor’s comments, Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz made an official announcement of a $5 billion, 15-year long-range plan to continue statewide transportation improvements kickstarted here in eastern Oklahoma County.

Advancing and Connecting Communities and Economies Safely Statewide (ACCESS Oklahoma) follows right where the recent Driving Forward projects left off.

Plans call to extend the Kickapoo Turnpike at I-40 south to I-35 near Purcell.

Continuing the modern transportation practices started with the eastern Oklahoma County project, the expansion will include more interchanges than traditional turnpikes, providing greater access to local communities.

Plans for the 29-mile stretch include interchanges at Choctaw Road, I-40, Franklin Road, Alameda Drive, Etowah Road, SH-9, US-77 and I-35.

The larger goal is a statewide mission, providing alternate high-speed routes.

Officials say completion of the loop will provide an alternate course for I-35 traffic traveling between southern Oklahoma and eastern and northeastern areas of the state and beyond.

Plans are to extend the toll road system entirely around the Oklahoma City metro area.

A second project includes a new east-west turnpike connecting the east and west through the south side of the OKC metro.

Jan. 5, 2021 the entire stretch of the Kickapoo Turnpike, connecting I-40 to I-44, opened for travel. Just over a year later officials announced plans for a southeast extension. (PHOTO BY RYAN HORTON)

Learn more about ACCESS OKLAHOMA

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2 Comments

  1. Bobby on March 4, 2022 at 3:33 pm

    this is all we need is more taxation for public roads. you tax us on the state level and on ever other level. So yes I am oppose of toll roads. They never get paid. toll roads were designed to be paid off and then free travel but now they are just money roads.

  2. Mandy on March 18, 2022 at 1:21 pm

    Each time a turnpike is proposed they get very little push back until they have put every cog in place and they come knocking on doors with their paperwork. Then everyone is outraged. These things have to be put in the grave at the front not the back end. By the time they are knocking at your door it’s too late. Quit waiting for the media to inform you of what is happening in your community.

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