Safer Streets, Better OKC projects update
On Sept. 12, 2017, Oklahoma City voters approved 13 bond propositions and two sales tax initiatives known as the Better Streets, Safer City projects.
The 10-year, $967 million bond package invests in streets, police and fire facilities, parks and other basic needs. It succeeds the 2007 bond program, which is almost complete.
The largest piece of the bond package is $491 million for streets and sidewalks. Streets are perennially a top concern among Oklahoma City residents, which is reflected in the size of the investment included in the bond package.
The ¼-cent sales tax portion will be invested primarily in the Police Department and Fire Department.
The City Council intends to use the funds to pay for hiring 129 additional police officers, and hiring 57 more firefighters to staff two additional fire stations and bring an idled fire engine back into service. The funds will also allow the Council to reverse the cutbacks to other critical services included in recent budgets.
The temporary penny sales tax portion will help make our streets better and continue work on a complete and safe street network for all Oklahoma City residents. It continues the use of the expiring MAPS 3 sales tax.
Over 27 months, the temporary sales tax will generate $240 million of revenue for better and safer streets, sidewalks and trails for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
The initiative includes $168 million for street resurfacing, $24 million for streetscapes, $24 million for sidewalks, $12 million for trails, $12 million for bicycle infrastructure.
The debt-free projects will create smooth and safe streets for drivers, on-street amenities for recreational and commuting cyclists, and streetscapes and trails that protect pedestrians and cyclists and enhance opportunities for economic development.
So what are the actual projects and how soon will we see results?
Streets that have the roughest ride and serve a lot of people are the best ones to prioritize for resurfacing. Rebuilding streets also provides an opportunity to make them safer for cyclists and pedestrians with better intersections and more amenities for safety.
Smoother streets reduce wear and tear on the vehicles that use them, helping to limit maintenance costs. Streets in excellent condition allow the driver to focus more attention on traffic, signals and pedestrians.
A better pedestrian network makes it easier to stay healthy, and also accommodate people with disabilities and people who don’t own a car. The easier it is to walk, the more likely people are to get outside and be active. It also boosts our economy. Making it easier to get to nearby businesses means people are more likely to shop locally instead of online, keeping more money in our community.
The projects funded by the bond package include:
- Streets and sidewalks ($491 million)
- Traffic control ($28 million)
- Bridges ($27 million)
- Parks and recreation ($138 million)
- Drainage control ($62 million)
- Economic and community development ($60 million)
- Fire ($45 million)
- Police ($31 million)
- Libraries ($24 million)
- Transit ($20 million)
- Civic Center complex ($20 million)
- City maintenance facilities ($13 million)
- Downtown arena ($9 million)
These projects are all currently in various stages of scoping – the process of defining the project, soliciting bids, selecting designers, negotiating and awarding contracts – and design.
The projects funded by the temporary sales tax are well under way. In fact, when the already-approved projects are completed, there will be 90 miles of resurfaced arterial streets, 37 miles of resurfaced residential streets, 7 miles of street enhancements, 30 miles of sidewalks, 32 miles of bicycle infrastructure and 42 miles of new and enhanced trails. Some early priority street projects have already been started and some like North MacArthur Blvd. from Hefner Rd. to Northwest 122nd St., Southeast 74th St. from Anderson Rd. to Hiwassee, MLK Blvd. from Northeast 23rd St. to Northeast 36th St., Eastern Ave. between Britton Rd. and Hefner Rd., and Sara Rd. from Hefner Rd. to Northwest 150th St. are already complete.
Another example of Oklahoma City investing in itself and building towards the future.