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Hundreds turn out for turnpike meeting

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OKLAHOMA - With emotions on high Thursday, to say the Oklahoma Turnpike Authorities meeting in Choctaw was packed would be an understatement.

"They're everywhere," said Martin Long. "There is no place to sit."

With more than 700 crammed into an assembly hall and overflow room, 100 or so more were unable to get into the Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center.

The meeting centered on a proposed turnpike in East Oklahoma, connecting I-40 and I-44, reportedly near Peebly road.

For the last few weeks, many in the area have become concerned with large white X's.

Those X's left on some people's property were being used to help get aerial views on possible turnpike locations.

Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley is now calling the move a mistake.

"We've recognized that we made a mistake," Ridley said. "It wasn't intentional that we caused this concern."

Exactly where the turnpike will go is not yet known, but those in favor said it will help lower congestion, increase safety and promote commercial growth in the area.

But, hundreds in the area said they might be affected, including congressman Steve Russell.

"I can't tell you how you feel. I can only speak to how I feel," Russell told the crowd. "[If the public] feels that the need and the safety and the growth of that community is more important than my house, I have come to the realization I might have to move."

With signs out in force and hands held high, public comments and questions largely controlled the meeting.

"I think you've got a lot of involvement and people that want to stand up for their property and their homes," said one woman on her way out of the meeting.

Many in attendance also met with state engineers to discuss concerns and possible locations for the turnpike.

Ridley tells NewsChannel 4 the next meeting will be in 4-5 weeks, likely in a larger venue.