By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City Beacon
A major road project in eastern Oklahoma County has included major traffic issues.
The six-mile-long construction zone on I-40 has experienced numerous injury crashes, including one fatal wreck, as well as routine fender benders that snarl traffic during rush hour.
“There is a lot of work going on and it’s in a highly used area,” said Bryce Boyer, public information officer with ODOT. “Given the unique circumstances, we are continually asking the traveling public to pay extra attention when traveling through and follow the posted speed limit and other construction signs to have a safer commute.”
The road project includes replacing the I-40 and Douglas Blvd. interchange and widening the roadway to six lanes between Town Center Dr. and I-240. Several bridges will also be impacted as part of the project.
Construction started April 10 and is expected to continue until 2025.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported one fatal crash, two serious injury crashes, 17 minor injury crashes, eight possible injury crashes, 67 non-injury crashes and one crash of unknown severity in the construction zone between April 10 and Aug. 25, according to a spokesperson for the agency. The construction zone extends from Town Center Dr. to roughly Choctaw Rd.
The fatal wreck occurred about 5:26 a.m. on Aug. 24 on I-40 just west of Andreson Rd. Troopers said a semi-trailer was eastbound on I-40 and departed the roadway to the right. The driver overcorrected and struck the center barrier wall, causing the truck to roll.
The driver, identified as Sonu Nehra, of Fresno, California, was partially ejected through the passenger side window during the roll and the semi-tractor landed on top of him. He died at the scene. A passenger was transported to OU Medical Center and admitted in good condition.
The roadway was closed for more than 12 hours.
Speed and distracted driving are major factors in the wrecks.
ODOT recently closed the westbound I-40 on- and off-ramps at Douglas Blvd. and shifted the westbound lanes between Post Rd. and Industrial Blvd. The ramp closures and lane shifts started last Thursday and will continue through Spring 2024.
ODOT has taken measures to improve safety as work continues along this corridor.
Last week, crews moved a barrier wall to provide more space for eastbound traffic. The speed limit for eastbound traffic has been lowered from 55 mph to 45 mph and additional cones and signs have been added in the area.
Traffic signals have also been added at I-40/SE 29th St./Industrial Blvd. to help with traffic from I-40 onto Industrial Blvd. Boyer said the lights were added to help manage the flow of traffic at the interchange which is smaller than the Douglas Blvd. interchange. He said they replaced the temporary lights with more permanent lights that can be synced to help manage traffic.
Allen Contracting Inc. and Shell Construction Co. Inc. are managing the $170 million road contract.