Hundreds of Eastern Oklahoma County residents attended a meeting of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA). The crowd was there to voice concerns and learn more about the state's proposal to add 21 miles of toll roads linking I-40 to I-44 near Peebly Road.
Amber Polach led the charge by questioning the OTA about its proposal to add 21 miles of toll road linking I-40 to I-44 in the areas of Jones, Luther and Choctaw.
"You have sprung this on people without hearing their voices... it is unacceptable," Polach said at the podium.
She asked OTA board members to answer a series of questions including how many homes will be displaced due to the project.
Polach also expressed the groups’ frustration with the lack of notification. According to many, the land for the turnpike has already been marked by surveyors, but Tuesday was the first opportunity residents have had to express their concerns.
Several are worried the turnpike would negatively impact their communities, with noise and pollution, and even put more strain on already stressed city services.
Dr. Kimberly Weiss lives in the area and wanted to speak for those who couldn't be in attendance.
“Twenty-two miles of families, farms, cattle ranches, you name it, are going to be destroyed because of this turnpike nobody wants," she said.
Congressman Steve Russell also lives in the path of the proposed turnpike. He says he's as concerned as others here protesting Tuesday, but encouraged all to proceed with civility.
"Let's do it with generosity and with the spirit that we can solve problems other than create them and I will stand should to shoulder with you," said Russell.
Not everyone is against the project. All of the cities in the proposed areas have been working with OTA. City leaders have signed two separate support resolutions for the project.
Choctaw Mayor Randy Ross expressed his support, saying it will influence economic growth in the communities.
"This area is about 90,000 residents, most of whom look forward to increased job opportunities, better shopping and dining, and overall enhanced quality of life," said Ross.
OTA members said they are open to hearing more from the public. Many took direct questions following the board meeting and promised to host public meetings in the future to address the concerns. Dates for the meetings are pending.