OKLAHOMA COUNTY – Work is set to begin next week on a controversial, new turnpike that will carve a path through eastern Oklahoma County.
The Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike will connect I-40 to the Turner Turnpike, traveling roughly along Luther Road.
Since the project was first announced almost two and a half years ago, it has drawn protests from many in the area who are set to lose their homes and land.
“Even to this day, we don’t have a size or an actual line or layout for sure of what they even want,” said Joe Krecke.
What Krecke does know is the turnpike will come through part of his 80-acre tract of land in Harrah.
While he has not yet received his initial offer from the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, he hopes it will be fair.
“I think that’s what everybody hopes is that they’re fair. The issue is they’re not in the business to make everybody happy and rich,” Krecke said.
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has the right to acquire right of way land through eminent domain.
It’s a law that allows a governmental agency to take land for a greater good, like highway officials said will alleviate traffic congestion in the metro.
But, they do have to compensate the landowners, and many of them have turned to an eminent domain attorney for help.
“You can negotiate with the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. And, so, what we do for our clients is we make sure that they’re getting the most amount of money they can possibly receive,” said Nick Atwood with Atwood Law Firm.
Atwood is representing approximately 15-20 percent of the landowners in the county who are losing their homes to the project.
“We go into the process respectfully, and we’re going to go in negotiating in good faith,” said Tim Gatz, executive director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
Gatz said they’re about halfway through the process of acquiring all the land they need.
But, he said, in a project this size, there will be disagreements.
Many residents in the area fought the turnpike, even holding rallies and hiring an attorney to keep it from coming in.
“It’s depressing when you see people having to move and they’re moving out of lifelong homes,” said Paul Crouch.
Crouch was at the forefront of the turnpike fight.
While he was not subject to losing his land, the turnpike would have been out his front yard.
He moved and is building again in Choctaw.
“Where can we move where there won’t be another turnpike coming through?” Crouch said. “So, we had to really turnpike-proof ourselves.”
OTA officials said construction begins next Monday on the Turner Turnpike interchange that’s just east of Luther Road.
Construction on the I-40 interchange is scheduled to begin in May.
And, OTA officials said they hope to have acquired all the land they need by summer.