Interstate 235/I-44 interchange construction improving Oklahoma City's infrastructure
As logistics-driven companies continue to move their headquarters to the Greater Oklahoma City area, the state has started working on another project to make it easier for everyone to get across the city.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation started in the spring on expanding the Interstate 235 and Interstate 44 interchange.
While traffic can still maneuver through the interchange both ways, drivers will soon start seeing the $105 million project coming to life closer to the road. It was the single largest dollar-amount contract in state history at the time it was awarded. ODOT is encouraging Greater Oklahoma City drivers to start using different routes than the I-235/I-44 interchange.
“We always try to start working on the side, so we can start clearing things,” said Terri Angier, ODOT spokeswoman. “The last thing we want to do is disrupt traffic.”
But getting the job done efficiently and safely will mean closing the interchange for a weekend, similar to the I-235 project. The first closure will likely be in early 2020. There are up to five closures planned for the two-year project, which started in March 2019.
When completed, I-235 will be widened to six lanes, plus acceleration/deceleration lanes between N. 50th Street and NW 63rd Street.
“We have about 50 people working on the I-235/I-44 project at any given time,” said Angier. “So this has been huge for employment. We also have about $3 million we’re offering in incentives to encourage the contractors to finish early. We’re asking for everyone’s patience on this. When it’s all said and done, it will have been about seven phases to widen and reconstruct the interchange. Then, we’ll give the whole interchange a bow on it and we can drive it for years to come.”
The finished interchange will resemble a bow itself, with four levels of bridges, similar to what’s sometimes seen in Dallas. Every part of traffic will have its own lane, so the present relatively short merging space will be gone. Bridge piers will start being more visible at the first of the year.
When the flyover ramps are completed, two of the existing cloverleaf ramps will be eliminated. The two remaining ramps will have up to a 10-day closure later in the project to widen them.
Shortly after 2020 begins, the 63rd Street Exit off I-235 will be closed for up to 45 days so new ramps can be constructed.
There are other smaller projects with the I-235/I-44 update. The $6 million rehabilitation of bridges at I-44 and Western Ave. is nearing completion.
There will also be an updates at the I-44 and Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave. and Lincoln Boulevard interchanges. The $410,000 MLK, Jr. bridge maintenance project will start in the fall.
The Lincoln work is part of a larger update to reconstruct westbound I-44 and northbound US-77/Broadway Extension ramp, costing an estimated $16 million. Lincoln will have a direct connection to northbound US 77/Broadway Extension.
“There are all investments in the state and Oklahoma City that will really bear fruit for the future and the public,” she said.
Infrastructure investments in Oklahoma City’s and the rest of the Sooner State will continue with ODOT’s eight-year construction work plan being fully funded for the first time in state history. Transportation funding began to change in 2006 thanks to legislation that incrementally increased funding annually until reaching a cap of $575 million per year, which was reached for the first time in 2018.
This means the state will be able to get more than $400 million in federal matching grants, which helps the state’s money go even further.
That hasn’t always been the case. Angier said there was time when the all the road projects were federally funded because there was no state-allotted money. It’s now a 50-50 match, like the system is designed.
The Oklahoma Transportation Commission will review the eight-year plan in October to add projects and make adjustments as needed due to available funding and needs.
Angier praised the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber for its work in helping to get the plan funded. She said the chamber has been a great partner for more than 20 years in helping to increase the department’s budget.
“We talked about this I-235/I-44 interchange back in the 1990s,” she said. “But we had a $250 million budget at that time. So it’s not a coincidence that a lot of these projects are coming to fruition because of the funding reversing. We’re taking that money and putting it to good use.”