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Next phases of improvements to I-235 corridor are ready to roll
"The bottom line is that the widening is completed, and we are working on ramp configurations to eliminate the weaving of traffic through the I-235 corridor," said Terry Angier, spokesperson for ODOT. "That whole corridor was designed in the 1960s for 50,000 to 60,000 cars a day. Today, we have from 75,000 to, in some places, up to 90,000 cars a day. These improvements will make traffic (flow) so much easier."
But, as with any major project, timelines change, bids are rejected and time seems to creep along like rush hour traffic. The funding for the first phases of the improvements began in 1997 with capital improvements funds created by House Bill 1629, which allocated $100 million for the project.
"That money was well used by the department," said Angier. "We've widened Broadway Extension from NE 63 Street all the way to Memorial Road. The widening of the corridor started in 1997 and was completed a phase at a time. We just completed that entire project in December 2006."
With the middle ground completed, ODOT will start at the ends and work toward the middle, culminating in the creation of fly-over ramps from the Broadway Extension to I-44 westbound.
"Recently, we did the (NW) 63 Street project. We took over where the widening at Wilshire left off to where the highway starts to touch the north end of the I-44 interchange," said Angier. "In order to use that interchange in full, that whole interchange would have to be rebuilt, but right now, we have the capability to restripe the Broadway Extension at (NW) 63 Street to add lanes."
The $10 million widening project completion leads ODOT to the opposite ends. Out of the 20 different phases of construction, 10 remain.
"Thirty-sixth Street is the next phase," Angier said. "We need to start the phases at the opposite ends so we do not impede traffic. We need to do the ends before we do the middle."
Construction on the 36 Street interchange was scheduled to begin last fall. However, when ODOT let the project for bids on Dec. 6, they came in significantly higher than engineering estimated.
"So we had to go back and get a new redesign due to rising construction costs and to be more efficient," said Cole Hackett, communications specialist with ODOT. "We hope to put it out for bid in April, award the bid in May and have construction begin in June or July."
Interstate-235 will be redesigned north of 23 Street, and the actual 36 Street interchange will be relocated to half way between the current 36 Street exit and the NE 50 Street exit.
"We'll widen the area, reconstruct the bridges and ramps to allow more traffic to flow freely," said Angier about the $27 million project.
Completion time is expected to be between 14 and 18 months.
As the NW 36 Street interchange completes, ODOT will begin preliminary work at the Memorial Road interchange in Edmond, tentatively set to begin in 2008. Plans for that area are to make Kelly Avenue in Edmond a through street on and off of Broadway Extension and to avoid the rail crossing in that area.
"We have lots of great stuff planned," said Angier. "Right now, when you exit onto Memorial, you have to go under the bridge and jog onto Kelly Avenue. We want to have drivers get off the ramp right on to Kelly. The other thing is to widen the roadway, rebuild the configuration of the new ramps and to avoid the railway stop completely."
In addition, drivers traveling south on Kelly Avenue to enter the Broadway Extension currently stop at a traffic light at the intersection of Kelly Avenue and Memorial Road. The new plans will include a bridge "fly-over" leading from Kelly over Memorial Road to enter the Broadway Extension southbound without having to stop.
"Think of the Lake Hefner Parkway where you get on to Memorial and you go up a bridge to do that," said Angier. "That's a fly-over."
This project is expected to take 14 to 18 months to complete.
Improvement plans to the Broadway Extention/I-44 interchanges will begin with the first phase to extend Santa Fe from where it dead-ends at NE 50 Street and extend it to NE 63 Street.
"I don't think people will understand how much that will help until it's completed," said Angier. "We'll then do major bridge work."
The whole project will tab out at $19 million. At the same time the Santa Fe project is underway, the northwest quadrant of the Broadway Extension and I-44 interchange will begin to see improvements to the ramp.
"If you are going southbound on Broadway Extension to go west on I-44, those are the ramps we're working on," Angier said.
Dedicated turn lanes and longer ramps will be added as well, totaling $21 million in work.
The next phase, to begin in 2012, would be on the southwest quadrant of that interchange for drivers traveling northbound on the extension. The ramp work there will total $7.5 million.
By 2013, fly-over bridges will be added, separating traffic on the interchange at a cost of $23 million.
Changes mean changes
Of course, by 2013, the plans may change. ODOT engineers and planners revisit the eight-year plan for the Broadway Extension improvements each year and after each phase is complete.
"We really have been needing improvements. Thanks to last year's House Bill 1176, we've been allowed maximum funds and additional federal funds to complete the improvements," said Angier. "The few remaining phases after that will be restriping the four lanes into six lanes and the six lanes into eight lanes."