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The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority on Tuesday approved $164 million worth of engineering contracts on projects related to the Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike as part of the Driving Forward program.
The engineering work will be for the three interchanges planned for the EOC.
- SOUTH SECTION from SE 44th to Reno including interchange at Reno & SE 29th Street for $4,298175
- MIDDLE SECTION from Reno to NE 50th including a railroad bridge, Canadian River Bridge, and US 62 (NE 23rd Street) Interchange for $7,509,020
- NORTH SECTION from NE 50th to NE 122nd including Britton Road Interchange for $4,608,735
As part of its June authority meeting, the board also approved its payment register as it does every month amounting to about $16 million in monthly bills, including a nearly $30,000 tab from Jones Public Relations for its May work on the Driving Forward Program.
In other news, the appointed board voted to keep its current officers for another year with Albert C (Kell) Kelly, Jr., chairman; David A Burrage, vice-chairman; G. Carl Gibson, secretary/ treasurer; Kenneth Adams, member; Gene Love, member and Dana Weber, member.
The May Operations Report revealed that more motorists are driving on the state’s turnpike system, with toll revenues up 6.3%, including a nearly ten percent growth trend for the Kilpatrick Turnpike in Oklahoma City. As of the end of May, motorists driving cars, trucks, semis, RVs, motorcycles, etc., had paid $108 million dollars in electronic tolls and cash since January 2016, with the original turnpike, Turner from Tulsa to OKC, leading the way with $26 million.
After the meeting, Helene Murdock, PE, vice president of Poe & Associates, updated The Luther Register on Right of Way issues involving the EOC. She said only land owners subject to “total takes” (their entire properties) have received letters to proceed with appraisals and other steps for OTA to acquire the land.
In what is news to some, Murdock also confirmed that those whose land might only have a portion of it taken for the toll road will NOT be receiving letters immediately, and it might be several months before communication begins on right-of-way acquisition. Murdock said it relates to the ongoing design process that first involves the “total takes,” and then continuing design work on the rest of the path.
The information took one EOC resident by surprise after contacting the Right-of-way Hotline (1-888-312-2151).
“It’s really frustrating that we’re making payments on land that we don’t get to keep, or sell, or do anything with for another year,” said the property owner whose land touches only part of the alignment. For this family, plans are on hold to expand a pasture, build a barn or just try to sell now.
Both Murdock and OTA Spokesman Jack Damrill also emphasized that there have NOT been any final deals with any property owner EXCEPT for the Cookie Land Girl Scout camp on the south end of the proposed EOC route.
They also said to be wary of anyone posing as agents or having authority regarding the right of way issues who are contacting landowners (1-888-312-2151). They advise to call the Right of Way hotline to verify all contact and communication. And monitor the Driving Forward website.
Meanwhile, even though OTA approved those $164 million design contracts for the EOC toll road interchanges on Tuesday, a gofundme fundraising site continues raising money for a legal war chest to fight the building of the road. The site is organized by residents who want the toll road stopped.
One other note regarding the EOC that comes from the minutes of the OTA’s May meeting in which former interim Director Neal McCaleb responded to a front page investigative story on May 1, 2016, in The Sunday Oklahoman.
From the OTA minutes: Mr. McCaleb noted that OTA had recently been criticized in the press because of the five-year estimates of our Traffic Engineer being significantly low. However, what was not addressed was that OTA’s current revenue on the Kilpatrick Turnpike was 150% greater than the projections that were originally made. The same is also true for the Creek Turnpike’s revenue. He stated that although the first five years were viable, the results of the current operations greatly exceed the estimates on the traffic reports. Mr. Kelly also commented that even with the increase of users, OTA continues to put safety first. Mr. McCaleb stated that safety was our first objective.