Nearby Businesses Weary of I-35 Widening Project

Thursday, February 26th 2009, 8:21 pm
By: News 9

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9

NORMAN, Oklahoma -- For more than 20 years city leaders have been lobbying for the wider stretch of roadway. Now the project is underway and everyone has to cope.

There's already been lots of talk about the Interstate 35 project, and there will be more at a public meeting Thursday at the Embassy Suites hotel, except the talk will be about phase two of the project, which lies in the future. Along the north side of town, the future is now.

From Main Street to Indian Hills Road, the traffic on I-35 is down to one lane in both directions. It's a challenge to drivers. Nearby businesses along the access road are questioning it as well.

David Herr runs a BMW repair shop. He's hoping for the best but fearing the worst.

"I've got the idea that currently it'll slow people down on the interstate and notice my business more, but when they work on the 77 overpass and divert the traffic to the service road I'll have interstate traffic at my front door," Herr said.

The owner of a close air conditioning store thinks drivers are having a harder time finding their way to him.

"They get off on Indian Hills Road exit and, you know, up this way, and it seems to be a little bit more difficult explaining that to them because of the traffic," Steve Compton with Compton's Air Quality Experts said.

Tell it to the businesses along the Broadway Extension in Edmond. They've had to deal with construction and traffic diversion for months. Their widening project will end this summer.

Norman's will go on to 2010, and so far the business at one nearby hotel has remained steady.

"We're doing really excellent right now," Ruthie Baker with ValuePlace said. "We are 90 to over percentage, so it really hasn't hit us yet."

But no one knows what the impact will be over the long haul.

When completed the entire I-35 widening project is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $200 million.