Oklahoma City Boulevard, the new at-grade thoroughfare that runs east-west through the heart of downtown in the shadow of the old I-40 crosstown bridge, is getting more traffic than planners expected.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that, at one particular intersection, city police have had to respond to an unexpected number of accidents, forcing a remedy -- a traffic light -- that public works officials say they had planned for, just not this soon.
Because the Oklahoma City Boulevard is technically part of ODOT's massive 25-year-old I-40 Crosstown project, ODOT has built it. But because the Boulevard is a city street, Oklahoma City has taken the lead on its design, and, as soon as construction is completely finished (likely within the next two months), will be responsible for its users' safety.
"I think some of the changes, with just the temporary traffic controls and the final construction not being completed," said Eric Wenger, OKC Director of Public Works, "have amounted to some of the accidents that have occurred."
There have been eleven accidents where the boulevard intersects with Klein Street, just west of Western Ave. Two of the wrecks have resulted in injury.
"There is a significant amount of traffic already in that area that I don't think anyone anticipated," said Terri Angier, spokeswoman for ODOT.
Angier says ODOT sees this frequently across the state in the wake of completed road projects -- motorists adjusting to new traffic patterns. She says what's happening at the Klein-Boulevard intersection is not unusual.
"It's just times ten," noted Angier, "because it's in downtown Oklahoma City and it's in a very highly traveled urban area that used to have a bridge."
Now, instead of going under the old I-40 crosstown bridge, Klein intersects -- at grade -- with a 4-lane boulevard. Original plans, dating the late 1990's, did not include a full intersection where Klein met the Boulevard. That was changed, however, at the city's request when citizens, business owners and developers indicated they favored greater access to that part of west downtown..
"It was always the intent of the city, in response to those comments that were received," said Wenger, "to make sure that that could be a full intersection, and also signalized at a future date."
That 'future date' has become now. Wenger says plans to install a traffic light at the intersection are already being drawn up, with installation likely by December, if not sooner.
Wenger says the cost of signalizing the intersection should be between $300,000 and $350,000.