Turnpike Expansion Could Alleviate Traffic, Expand Suburbs
OKLAHOMA CITY - Just a day after the Governor and Oklahoma Turnpike Authority announced plans to expand; there are already a lot of questions.
Most importantly how will the $900 million project be funded and where will it run.
The proposal was only announced Thursday, and turnpike engineers haven't even had time to talk possible routes. But the transportation secretary says he wants the job finished in the next four years.
Changes are coming for the Oklahoma turnpike system moving forward with a plan nearly 20 years in the works. The project will cost OTA nearly $900 million and pay for 28 miles of new turnpike around the Metro and nearly double that around the state.
The plans focus on the west and east sides of Oklahoma City. On the west side, crews would extend the Kilpatrick Turnpike seven miles from I-40 to Highway I-52. On the east, 21 miles would be built to connect I-40 to Interstate 44. Both routes would run close to neighborhoods and schools.
“Our number one consideration is, 'How can we do these roadways without affecting these residents in these communities?'” said Jack Damrill with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
Despite the possible routes, many communities actually want the construction, hoping it'll alleviate some traffic and bring business to rapidly expanding suburbs already benefiting from the toll road.
“We have seen the effect of the turnpike and it’s really a very good thing,” said Yukon City Manager Grayson Bottom.
The increase in mileage would raise toll prices as much as 16 percent and the bonds used to pay for the additions would raise OTA's debt to about $1.7 billion. The money comes from investor bonds and is paid back through tolls. OTA doesn't take any state, federal or taxpayer money.
“If they do not drive a turnpike they will not pay for it. I mean, period. They will not pay for it,” said Damrill.
Not all of the feedback has been good. Some people in Choctaw have already begun voicing their concern over the future turnpike on social media.