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Life is an expressway



Keith Angier, executive vice president of MacArthur Associated Consultants, who has worked with the city and the state Department of Transportation on the realignment since 1995, made a short presentation to the MAPS 3 Convention Center Subcommittee at its Nov. 15 meeting to outline plans for the boulevard.

Paid for by ODOT and estimated to be completed in 2014, the boulevard will run from Pennsylvania Avenue to Byers Avenue downtown. The project totals $75 million.

Early renderings projected the boulevard to be six lanes wide, although Mayor Mick Cornett said he was committed to narrowing it down to four to make it more pedestrian-friendly.

Now, Angier said, while the six-lane idea is still on the table, it could very well end up being a four-lane street.

He said that things have changed downtown, and anything that may previously have been seen may or may not happen.

“There’s economics that are involved, there are schedules involved, and the dynamics of Oklahoma City have changed dramatically since we started that project,” Angier said. “Before, it started as a six-lane thoroughfare; we’re just going to rebuild it where it is.”

He also told the subcommittee that designers will be looking at shifting the boulevard as far south along the right-of-way as possible to allow more room for access and deliveries to the future MAPS 3 convention center. The boulevard will pass on the south side of the future convention center’s location, and serve as the northern border to the MAPS 3 park.

Meanwhile, the I-40 realignment is coming along nicely, Angier said, and while there is not an exact date set for it to open, he said the plan is to begin allowing eastbound traffic on the new alignment first, and then 30 to 45 days later, allow westbound traffic on it, Angier said.

Once traffic begins running on the new alignment, workers will begin deconstructing the old section of highway. However, because of nearby buildings, right-of-way restrictions and plans to salvage some of the materials for use in other bridges in the state, it likely will be a relatively slow process, lasting between nine months and a year, he said.

“It has to be taken down very carefully and very slowly so that it’s done properly,” Angier said.

Meanwhile, plans for the boulevard will be drawn up by a team of experts, including renowned urbanist Jeff Speck, he said.

Access downtown from the realigned Crosstown Expressway will be at Western Avenue, Shields Boulevard and E.K. Gaylord Boulevard, although the westbound lane will have an access point at Robinson Avenue that cuts back to Shields because of the railroad, Angier said.

“We’ve selected those, obviously, because they’re main thoroughfares for the city,” Angier said.

Thus far, the timing on the project is on track for completion in 2014, and he said they hope to be able to regularly meet with and take suggestions from stakeholders and members of the MAPS 3 subcommittees.

“I think ODOT is on the track to make sure that happens as quickly as possible,” Angier said. “They’ve asked us to be as aggressive and assertive as we can be to make sure that connection has been re-established. ODOT has a distinct interest to make sure this project comes together like they committed to, so we’re not going to drag our feet. But we still need the time to make sure all the people are properly heard.”

Photo by Shannon Cornman

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