Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Highway Revolts

FHWA: Oklahoma DOT Must Consider Restoring Street Grid in Downtown OKC

Advocates in Oklahoma City have proposed this grid pattern as an alternative to a wide boulevard. Recently, FHWA forced ODOT to include it in its evaluation of alternatives. Image: ODOT

In a rare victory against state DOT standard operating procedure, residents of Oklahoma City last week managed to compel the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to consider a redeveloped street grid as an alternative to a wide, high-speed boulevard through the city's downtown.

A highly-organized group of volunteers calling themselves Friends of a Better Boulevard has been challenging Oklahoma DOT's plans for an area near downtown where the I-40 elevated highway was recently torn down. ODOT had originally proposed an elevated highway-like road through the "core-to-shore" area, where the city had been planning a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood.

Oklahoma City Councilman Ed Shadid has been one of the most outspoken proponents of the grid plan. Image: ##http://newsok.com/article/3847073## NewsOK##

So far, the OKC advocates, with the support of City Councilman Ed Shadid, keep on winning.

Their first victory was challenging the state's environmental analysis for I-40. The state had conducted a single environmental impact study for the I-40 teardown, the construction of the boulevard that would take its place, and an I-40 replacement highway nearby. But advocates successfully argued that the $85 million boulevard project was large enough to deserve its own environmental impact statement.

Now, in another major victory, OKC advocates have changed the DOT's "alternatives analysis" process -- part of the environmental impact study. This process is meant to evaluate a set of options for the project; generally state DOTs just trot out of a handful of similar road plans with slightly different alignments. But Friends of a Better Boulevard and its allies argued that the DOT should add a proposal that differs significantly from the "boulevard" plan: the reconstruction and enhancement of the original street grid, known as "Alternate D." And last week, FHWA intervened on the advocates' behalf and ordered the state to add Alternate D to the analysis.

A rendering of the original boulveard concept. Image: ##http://blog.newsok.com/okccentral/2013/06/20/downtown-boulevard-back-to-four-options/## NewsOK##

"The Federal Highway Administration has clearly told ODOT that they must respect the widespread outcry from the people of OKC to study the option," Shadid told his Facebook followers Wednesday. "By trying to funnel traffic to one high speed corridor in which cars cannot exit to reach potential development along the boulevard, one impedes economic development as well as forgoes the creation of walkable destinations and place-making that might otherwise be possible."

Friends of a Better Boulevard's Bob Kemper, a former ODOT engineer, said the wide boulevard would divide downtown, much like the structure it replaced.

"We just thought that was the wrong way to go," he said. Kemper said the grid option "seems to be the favorite plan of the majority of folks in Oklahoma City."

Kemper said he just hopes ODOT doesn't use inflated traffic modeling to rule out the concept.

Between now and July 2, Friends of a Better Boulevard is hosting a letter-writing campaign to public officials to show support for Alternate D.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

What a Surprise! Hochul’s Congestion Pricing Pause Helps Rich Suburban Drivers

Gov. Hochul's "little guys" certainly have big wallets. Meanwhile, the rest of us suffer with declining subway service and buses that are slower than walking. Thanks, Kathy.

July 22, 2024

Philadelphia Demands More Than ‘Flex-Post’ Protected Bike Lanes After Motorist Kills Cyclist

Pediatric oncologist Barbara Friedes was struck while biking on a "protected" path. Now, advocates are arguing that flex posts should be replaced with something far better.

July 22, 2024

Monday’s Headlines Switch Tracks

President Joe Biden dropped out of the race Sunday and endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris. So what does this mean for transportation?

July 22, 2024

Friday’s Headlines Go Back to the Future

If you liked the first Trump administration's transportation policies, you're going to love the second Trump administration's transportation policies.

July 19, 2024

Advocates Share What It Takes to Fight Highway Expansions in Court 

What does it take to sue your state DOT? Time, money, the right partners, and a little creativity, a recent survey of activists found.

July 19, 2024
See all posts