Building a better Classen Boulevard

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- It started with one resident complaining that he couldn’t safely cross Classen Boulevard on his bike, and it turned into a community meeting with 200 people brainstorming ideas on how to improve the major thoroughfare in Oklahoma City.

“I want it to be a place where it’s multi-modal and it’s safe,” said John Dodson.  “When I ride my bike to church with my daughter, I actually have to walk the bike to Classen because I know that if she misses the curb, she’s going to die.”

Dodson met with his Ward 6 councilwoman, Meg Salyer.

It ended up with a partnership between neighbors, the city, The Urban Land Institute and OU’s Institute for Quality Communities.

They’ve spent the last six months compiling the input from residents who live along Classen and forming suggestions for the communities.

The main complaint from residents was that Classen was not safe for walkers and bikers.

And it has a disjointed feeling. Different parts of Classen have a very different look.

“For most of its history, it’s been called Classen Boulevard and that name just connotes a much better street than we have,” said Salyer.

Most of the suggestions revolve around beautifying the major thoroughfare and putting in bike lanes and handicap curbs.

On Tuesday night, a representative from OU presented several options and showed residents pictures from other cities for ideas on what to do here.

Salyer says this project has really taken off because of the neighbors.

“The city participated in funding this study, but so did the neighbors and so we’ve done a lot of projects recently that are 50/50 partnerships between neighborhoods and the city,” said Salyer.

Salyer says some of the smaller projects that only need things like paint and planters could happen fairly quickly and would probably be paid for out of the city’s general fund.

Some larger long-term projects, like possibly making Classen four lanes instead of six to make way for bike lanes, would require bond money, and it will probably be 2017 before any kind of package is put together.

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