NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – As plans for the proposed turnpike move forward, an Oklahoma family fears the new road will split their family farm in half.
“It’s so devastating for them to even think about coming in here and taking us over,” said Janette Ward. “This is our family farm, and we cannot have a turnpike fit right through the middle of it.”
Ward, 82, said she and her husband, Don, poured decades worth of blood, sweat and tears into their 400-acre farm near Norman. At times, the couple balanced working three jobs at once to save up enough money to buy the land off of Indian Hills Road.
“I don’t know how many hours a day [we worked], and I was trying to raise three kids at the same time and doing the legwork and different things,” said Ward.
The Wards have owned the land since 1976. It’s where about 23 of their family members, scattered between eight houses, call home.
“This farm means so much to us because it is our foundation of keeping the family together and keeping all the family right here in one little bundle,” said Ward.
But she fears the state’s $5-billion access plan could separate her close-knit family.
The proposed turnpike along Indian Hills Road would connect Newcastle to Norman. By default, the road would cut the Ward’s land in half.
“It just can’t happen,” said Ward. “We just can’t let it happen.”
KFOR talked to the OTA about the Wards’ situation on Monday.
“We’re taking into consideration all of her concerns,” said Jessica Brown, the Director of Strategic Communications for the Oklahoma Transportation Cabinet.
Brown said if the new road does in fact go through Ward’s property the OTA would build an overpass over the road to connect the property.
“We will make sure the bridges are high enough to where the hay trucks and such in other equipment can get under those bridges. We’ll do anything and everything we can to help accommodate her and her family,” said Brown.
Despite potentially impacting families and their land, the OTA is standing by the necessity of the turnpike.
“There are five accidents a day along that stretch of I-35. It is congested to where there’s no room for expansion. We have to find a reliever route,” said Brown. “This is the route we believe that will do the best to relieve some of that traffic and make the roads safer for motorists…. I wish these folks weren’t put in this position and they are making a sacrifice that we can’t repay completely, but we’ll do the best we can in the design features and the compensation for them.”