Oklahoma DOT Dismisses Highway-to-Street-Grid Proposal in OKC

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has rejected a proposal championed by residents of Oklahoma City to replace a highway segment with an interconnected street grid.

Instead of restoring the street grid as proposed above, a low-cost solution that will open up more land for development, Oklahoma DOT will replace a highway with a highway-like street. Image: ODOT

Last year, a coalition that includes City Council Member Ed Shadid prevailed on the Federal Highway Administration to compel Oklahoma DOT to consider the consider the highway-street-grid idea, in addition to the various highway-like at-grade roads the agency had proposed.

Given that advocates had to force the issue, it’s not surprising that Oklahoma DOT is back with its final recommendations for the project, and the agency didn’t score the grid concept too highly. Instead, the DOT wants to build a high-speed, four-lane road without the added street connections advocates want.

The grid concept was by far the cheapest to construct and would have opened up the most acres for development, but it lost points for having lower level of service — a measure of motor vehicle delay at intersections. Oklahoma DOT’s “preferred alternative” will cost three times as much to construct and open up 62 percent less land for development.

Gotta move those cars, the agency essentially wrote in its environmental assessment [PDF]:

A primary purpose of the Crosstown Boulevard is to help restore connections that were lost when I-40 was relocated south to its current location. As a result, the Crosstown Boulevard should be easy to drive with little delay which allows for easy access for conducting downtown business while accommodating the planned vision of the downtown area.

OKC residents hope to build a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood on 700 acres in the hollowed out Core to Shore area that the road passes through.

  • Matthew

    I say will tell ODOT to got hell. The citizens don’t want this and I am sure our tax dollars pay their bills. Let’s cut them off.

  • GhostElephant

    Heads up their asses.

  • Roger87

    So why did they tear the highway down if they just wanted to replace it with another highway?

  • C Monroe

    They just don’t get it. It is that ol strong towns youtube video ‘conversation with an engineer’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9BUyWVg1xI

  • GTElmore

    What goes around comes around — and in this absurd matter, the big bucket of nasty stuff the OKC big shots sent around when they threw in with the knuckle-dragging ODOT debt-kings’ hyper-expensive and completely unnecessary relocation of the I-40 Crosstown has come right back into their greedy, smirking faces.

    In allying themselves with ODOT while slandering and threatening the citizen activists who had brought the agency to heel before the federal Surface Trasnportation Board in June, 2008, “Mayor Mick” and the smarmy, dissemblng Oklahoma City council apparently thought that they’d put themselves in the drivers’ seat for the redevelopment of the former path of the old Crosstown. Turns out that they were actually throwing themselves “under the bus.”

    Their dogma (“better to rule in hell than to serve in heaven”) just got run over by their karma.

    Who could have imagined a more comically fitting end for the whole business?

  • GTElmore

    It should now be clear why Admiral Hyman Rickover, father of the nuclear submarine navy, insisted that the midshipmen he’d brought to graduation as engineers at Annapolis sign the equivalent of a Hippocratic Oath (“first do no harm…”) – promising that they’d never use anything they learned at the US Naval Academy against the good of the nation in order to stuff their own pockets.

    Be certain that Hyman Rickover understood “the mind of the engineer.”

    Those of us who opposed the unnecessary and hyper-expensive relocation of the old I-40 Crosstown through the Oklahoma City Union Station rail passenger yard learned the lesson long ago.

    The naive, completely deluded “transportation activists” who helped facilitate that foolish destruction and are now pushing creation of a new regional transit center at the old OKC Santa Fe depot on elevated rail lines already choked with 40-to-60 daily, fast BNSF freight trains and in a cramped, already profoundly congested space wedged between Bricktown and the old Myriad convention center – still don’t get it.

  • neroden

    I’m pretty sure that the people who supported running the I-40 through the passenger rail yard (making it harder to provide rail service) are not the same people who are proposing improved passenger rail service. Citations required if you disagree.

  • neroden

    Money for road construction contractors.

  • GTElmore

    “The same people who are proposing improved rail service?” Who would those people be?

    You can cite whatever you wish to cite. I led the fight for 15 years. I know what I’m talking about.

  • Kenny Easwaran

    Is it right that the freeway was removed and replaced by that yellow line in the bottom of the image? And they need another high-speed road through the project site too, even though it’s less than half a mile away?

  • Streetsblog Network

    That’s the one they removed.

  • andrelot

    Yes, I-40 was relocated south on what appears as a thick yellow line on the map above. Relocation was completed in 2012.

  • andrelot

    The old highway was congested, needed increased capacity and that couldn’t be provided at the current site, realisticially. They rebuilt it southwards, opening space that was once used by the old I-40.

  • GTElmore

    Yeah, yeah. More ODOT mythology.

    The old expressway could have been upgraded and modernized for indefinite use for less than $50 million. The problem was – that was too cheap, letting the good ‘ol taxpayers off just a little too easy. It would also have provided no cover for the strongarm theft of two or three neighborhoods comprised mostly of homes and businesses of the working class or poor coveted for a big new playground by the party set, nor would it have provided the long-sought the chamber’s car salesmen and highway lobby cadre their long-sought dream of obliterating the fabulous Union Station yard and its marvelous rail connections, a virtually ready-made transit network. So, instead, they ginned up this allegedly “$236 million” monstrosity which, if ever actually fully completed as promised, will likely have cost something in excess of $1.5 billion.

    I’ll remind you that this comically disastrous miscalculation came from the minds of the ODOT bunch and their puppeteers, now busy stuffing their own pockets at the expense of future generations. They’ve already amassed a state “unfunded highway maintenance deficit” well in excess of $100 billion, which they’re courageously shuffling under various voodoo rugs to be confronted at some future date (after those who made the mess are retired or dead) by Oklahomans not now here to defend themselves.

    As they say at my old alma mater, “Boomer Sooner!”

  • andrelot

    So you are complaining about a project that made a neighborhood more attractive because it removed a barrier that kept it cheap (since it was nested between the old highway and the rail tracks)?

    Your quoted budget involve also the re-do of many interchanges in OKC, converting them to stacks, adding buffer lanes on the approach, with the goal of giving the city a better highway network.

  • GTElmore

    “Complaining” about it?

    I’m telling you what happened and why – period. Calling the old Crosstown “a barrier” is more smarmy, insultingly absurd ODOT / OKC Chamber double talk. As we who opposed the unnecessary destruction of OKC Union Station stated through the years of that battle, “You haven’t SEEN ‘a barrier’ until you’ve tried to cross a 10-lane ditch full of semi-trailer trucks.” The proof is in the reality, today. The question is — why, in a city that already lost a major building to a truck bomb, is every hazardous load on I-40 deliberately routed through the middle of Oklahoma City? Anybody remember “truck bypasses?”

    “A project that made a neighborhood more attractive?” Sure — like Vietnam — “we’ll save the village by destroying it.” And, as I told the Latino Center people after their leader Pat Finnell led them into the laps of the big shots — “They’re gonna do for RIVERSIDE what they’ve done for DEEP DEUCE — and when they’re through, there’ll be about as many brown people left there as there are black people left in THEIR old neighborhood…”

    If you want to see a big city park that’s heavily used, check out Wiley Post Park on any given afternoon. Trouble is, as part of the vaunted “New Crosstown” mess, ODOT and BNSF quite deliberately rerouted mainline rail traffic to a longtime, low-speed, low-traffic-density design freight lead separating that park from its key neighborhood, Capitol Hill — replacing the elegant Union Station underpasses and their twin protected pedestrian walkways with not-even-any SIDEWALKS across the limited-sight-distance grade crossings of the Packing Town Lead. These are crossings that are heavily used – daily – by families going to and from work and to the park. Not even any SIDEWALKS across the tracks.

    As to the “quoted budget,” for the refurbished original Crosstown – it came from ODOT Bridge Division, an element of the agency rarely heard from during the big snow job — in favor of motormouths like the great Gary Ridley, a former asphalt lobbyist who wouldn’t qualify to teach a freshman-level college class in anything (no college degree in ANYTHING). His “qualification?” Glad to put up a fog of cold, deliberate lies in the faces of the taxpayers on behalf of the greedy, better-to-rule-in-hell-than-serve-in-heaven interests he benefits. When I questioned him about his evasions of the questions and challenges piled up at his door by the knowledgeable citizen activists who opposed the needless destruction of Union Station’s rail facility(and who, in June, 2008, defeated the whole business before the federal Surface Transportation Board), he answered thus – “Well, Tom, there WAS a time when we didn’t even have to ASK you what you thought…”

    The request for confirming comment from the remaining Crosstown expert in Bridge Division after the retirement of the longtime bridge chief was this: “Please don’t ask me to comment; You know that anything he told you is absolutely reliable — but please don’t ask me to comment further. You have no idea how much pressure we’re under in Bridge Division to help sell this new highway project.”

    The truth – as it might have been told by experienced, conscientious ODOT experts – was quite clearly restrained by threats well understood by public employees closer to retirement than initial employment.

    One of the chief, overriding goals of “the new Crosstown” was the make darn certain the taxpayers would never benefit from the gift of their great-grandparents’ generation known as OKC Union Station. Even the State Historic Preservation Officer fell over for the destruction of the business-end of the facility — as he had apparently been promised “a big new history museum” in return for his acquiescence. Among the elements destroyed and completely eliminated from future reconstruction prospects was a direct rail line from downtown to Will Rogers World Airport.

    Meanwhile – while 14-year Fifth District Congressman Ernest J. Istook was funding this destruction in OKC, here’s what he was funding for his religious brethren in Utah (see link below) – home of Tinker competitor HILL AFB, now the ONLY USAF Air Logistics Center in the nation with oil-crisis-proof-workforce-mobility in the form of 60 daily, fast commuter trains linked to the Ogden and Salt Lake / Provo population centers:

    http://usa.streetsblog.org/2013/06/05/salt-lake-city-how-a-remote-red-state-city-became-a-transit-leader/

  • GTElmore

    Gary Ridley – king of the revolving door at Oklakhoma’s Department of Transportation – making who works for ODOT and who works for the big contractors indistinguishable….

    http://usa.streetsblog.org/2013/01/30/the-revolving-door-oklahomas-gary-ridley-asphalt-lobbyist-dot-chief/comment-page-1/

  • Greg Terry

    The yellow line is the new, existing, wider Interstate 40. The proposed Crosstown boulevard would run just north of SW 3rd street. You can see the bare area on the map as it runs up northwest to meet Sheridan Ave.

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