UPDATE: Since we posted this update earlier this week, we had a couple of reader questions. Here are the answers supplied by Jack Damrill, communications director, Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
- I can’t tell from the map what the blue line on 164th street going west from Luther Road signifies, do you know?
DAMRILL: “The blue lines either signify the right-of-way or in this case, we are making improvements to streets like 164th in order to provide access for local residents to their property. But in most cases, we are making improvements to the city streets.”
- Why aren’t they donating parts of the houses like cabinets, doors, windows etc. to Habitat for Humanity? It’s a shame to see useful things being put in dumpsters and trucked to the dump. Also, why can’t people get permission or permits to remove trees to be used for firewood? It’s a shame to see such wastefulness.
DAMRILL: Logistics of acquiring the property and then demolishing the property make it unfeasible to team with organizations like Habitat. Once we acquire the property, we must work as quickly as possible to bring the house down for several reasons. We don’t want that property to become a nuisance for the area residents and we must also have that property go through an environmental remediation process for 14 days. During that process, it’s possible asbestos and other material must be remediated from the house. Therefore, it would make providing for those organizations unsafe to allow people in the house to take portions. Once the environmental process is complete, we try to take the house down as soon as possible to help prevent looters from going in. No matter how fast we move, we still have people go in and loot the house. It all goes back to logistics and timing.
All has been quiet on the news front when it comes to the Driving Forward Turnpike project. But there’s been plenty of activity along the route of the North East Oklahoma County toll road as homes and buildings have been destroyed. Property owners are actively negotiating with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to sell to make way for the new 21-mile toll road to connect I-40 to I-44.
According to Jack Damrill, OTA communications director, the May 2017 map posted is unchanged. Damrill also provided some other updates about the new toll road.
He said 45 structures have been demolished out of 84 set to come down. There have been 97 parcels acquired from 88 landowners (88 total takes and 16 partial takes). Damrill said OTA remains in the acquisition of property phase and will start the bid process soon for other contracts.
The project is on schedule, he said, with the first phase of construction set to begin in February or March of 2018. And where will that be? Starting on the north end, the first work on the toll road will be the I-44/Turner Turnpike interchange. The new turnpike will connect the Turner between Luther Road and Dobbs at about 164th.
Damrill said there will NOT be any exits in that location, just the interchange between turnpikes.
“The land on the north end of the pike is really not able to accompany frontage roads. We will be replacing the current Luther Road bridge over the Turner Turnpike that will be higher and wider,” said Damrill.
He said interchanges will be at “I-40 and the exits at 29th, Reno, 23rd and Britton Road.”
The $480 million project announced in late 2015 involves six individual projects including the North East Oklahoma County toll road, as outlined by former OTA Director Neal McCaleb in a Luther Register story from January 2016. That project caused a firestorm of protest that started with a petition drive and ended unsuccessfully at the State Supreme Court.
Damrill said OTA will sell another round of bonds in December, “That will be the second of three bond sales with the final one in late 2018.” The turnpike project is being funded by the bonds and increased tolls on the state’s other turnpikes.