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I-35 reopens: Traffic near Arbuckle Mountains should be a lot smoother this weekend

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MURRAY COUNTY, Okla. -- Just in time for the weekend, all lanes of traffic are open on I-35, nearly two months after a rock slide.

Heavy rains sent rocks tumbling down the Arbuckle Mountains in Murray County June 18. Crews got to work immediately thereafter, often working around the clock to get things open again.

"We had had earthquake issues, tornadoes, storms, floods, but to wake up to a rock slide was quite a surreal feeling," said ODOT Spokeswoman Terri Angier. "Even my counterparts from the rest of the country were saying, 'uh, is this really Oklahoma?'"

It took help from out-of-state and out-of-country agencies to bring the four-phase project to a close.  Last month, ODOT blasted away some of the fallen rocks with dynamite.   Portions of the highway also had to be re-paved.

The work was completed ahead of schedule.

"It's a huge feat for us," said Angier. "Fifty-one days later, we are here to say: it's ready for business."

That news couldn't come soon enough for drivers like Cody Parrot, who lives in the area but frequents the interstate.

When the lanes were closed, "it slowed things down," he said. "But with the interstate being back open, things are a lot smoother, traffic is a lot faster and you don't have to sit around and wait to get anywhere."

Parrot says he's looking forward to cutting the extra time out of his commute. He says what used to be a five minute commute has turned into half an hour.

"The time duration between a standstill versus going 70 miles an hour is a big time gap," he said. "So I'm glad the interstate is back open."

Nancy Fulton is glad too.  Business has been slower than ever at her Fried Pie store off Exit 51, a frequent pit stop for drivers traveling I-35, though she has been selling more gasoline.

"In some ways, it's been real nice," she said. "In a lot of ways, it's hurt our business. They couldn't get in and out. It was just too difficult."

ODOT says there will be no more lane closures as crews do their final touch-ups on the project.

Crews will have to return in October to put 30-50 foot bolts in the rocks, hoping to prevent future rock slides.

The project is estimated to cost $2 million, but ODOT says it expects to get most of that money back by way of federal emergency relief funds.

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