OKC leaders approve controversial boulevard designs

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OKLAHOMA CITY - After months of public debate, Tuesday marked decision time for the design of a new downtown boulevard in Oklahoma City.

The city council gave the project the go ahead and agreed to build a new bridge over Western avenue leading into downtown.

The fact is most of the planned boulevard will be at street level but not all of it.

Critics said elevating any of the roadway will only be repeating the mistakes of the past.

"We preferred a grid design," business owner Joe Loomis said.

"It's important to keep that alignment and keep traffic moving freely," OKC Mayor Mick Cornett said.

The mayor said traffic concerns with the planned boulevard crossing Western Ave. led to four options: a bridge over Western, a tunnel under Western, an old-fashioned intersection or a roundabout.

In the end the city council voted to build a small bridge over the street.  

That plan got far from universal support.

"By building the boulevard you'll attract traffic and create congestion you're trying to solve," councilman Ed Shadid said.

"Not everybody will walk away from this with exactly how they would have designed it, but the road is a good compromise," Mayor Cornett said.

Still, while the initial heavily criticized designs drawn up by ODOT, including a large elevated section of roadway, were dismissed after much public outcry, business owners knew stopping the bridge over Western was a fight they'd never win.

"It's hard to fight the system when they knew what they wanted to do 12 years ago and didn't change their mind," Loomis said.

Planners hoped to begin construction later this year but because of all the debate, it's unclear if they'll be able to keep to that timetable.

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