Metro businesses impacted by a major highway construction project are voicing their frustration.
The I-235/I-44 interchange, specifically access to the highway from 50th Street and Santa Fe, is the problem.
Under the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s plan the current on-ramp from Santa Fe and 50th Street onto I-235 will be shutdown.
Some business owners in the area say not only will their bottom line suffer, but also also motorists, including big truck operators, who travel to and from this industrial area.
Businesses say the problem is removing the ramps will in turn hurt their bottom line.
Those businesses thought the state was going to add a bridge extending Santa Fe north over I-44. But ODOT says that is no longer a part of the plan.
Randy Hunter, with Hunter Mechanical, said, “The last meeting was very heated, but we are getting nowhere.” He said, “I just think it’s a big mistake to take the Santa Fe bridge out. It really affects our businesses very negatively.”
The Santa Fe bridge was an optional part of the I-235 expansion plan. Engineers developed the plan as a way to divert traffic if I-235 had to be narrowed to one lane.
ODOT now says the bridge is not necessary because they can leave two lanes of traffic open in each direction along I-235 throughout the project. Since they won’t have to divert traffic to Santa Fe they cannot justify using federal funds to build the bridge.
Terri Angier, with ODOT, said, “At this point, it is a city project just like any of the other roads around there.”
Hunter said, “It would give us an access for people getting into this area.”
Hunter and other business owners believe it will negatively impact their companies; however, ODOT says motorists can access the area by using Lincoln, Western or even 36th Street.
Angier said, “If they take Lincoln not only is it safer, it’s actually going to save them 30 seconds of drive time.”
Regardless, businesses in the area fear the change will negatively impact their companies.
Hunter said, “The point is we lose our inlet and outlet to this whole area.”
The good news is the ramp from 50th and Santa Fe will remain open for a few more years.
ODOT says since the bridge isn’t a necessary part of the I-235/I-44 project it could be something the city builds. Businesses would need to work that out with the city.
Since Monday was Veterans Day we were unable to reach the city for a comment.