DAVENPORT, Okla. (KFOR) – Oklahomans across the state of Oklahoma have been protesting planned turnpike expansion through the Access Oklahoma highway infrastructure project since its announcement back in February.
However, residents in the town of Davenport are rolling out a welcome mat, saying it could inject some much-needed life into the community.
“It’ll help us because we live two miles north and it will go right across the turnpike,” resident Ron Hickman said as he paused in his car to speak to KFOR Tuesday.
“Well, the increase in notoriety is, number one, to let them know that Davenport is here and attracting more families and possibly more commuters that would commute to jobs in Oklahoma City and Tulsa and the business,” said town historian, editor and newspaper publisher Don Sporleder.
“Just the fact of having a turnpike gate where thousands of cars go by every day, well, that’s going to be quite the opportunity for us,” he added.
Davenport sits along U.S. Highway 66 (Route 66), east of Chandler, in Lincoln County, and the tiny town of just fewer than a thousand people is about fifty minutes from Oklahoma City and lies along a stretch of Route 66 that’s already considered a popular tourist destination.
“We have people from all over the world that come in here, [and] turnpike access will bring more people in, more business in town, and such a small town, and they’ve been bypassed for so long,” added Michelle Moore, a restaurant and general manager for Tammy’s Round Up Café, a scratch located on 1025 Broadway in the town.
In an email Tuesday to KFOR, a representative for Oklahoma Transportation said the planned access points along Route 66 answers a decades long call from many community leaders.
“When the Turner Turnpike was built in the early 1950s, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority designed the expressway from Oklahoma City to Tulsa with a limited number of access points due to the high cost of operating tolling plazas. Now, the ACCESS Oklahoma program along with the advancements in tolling technology (PIKEPASS, PlatePay) allow the OTA to provide additional access along the Turner Turnpike, providing economic growth opportunities to many small communities only miles from the turnpike. This answers the decades-long call from many community leaders for connections access points.”Jessica Brown, Oklahoma Transportation Cabinet
“The three widest blocks of Broadway [in Davenport] used to be blocks solid with businesses,” continued Don, gesturing to a mostly vacant block Tuesday.
Sporleder said while existing business in the community is strong, he hoped more economic revitalization could be on the wayv with an exit where thousands of people could potentially gain access to the community is going to make a big difference.
“[It will] help alleviate our housing shortage and attract more families and possibly more commuters [driving] to jobs in Oklahoma City and Tulsa,” he added. ” And I wouldn’t doubt if we gained some new businesses out there where they build that gate.”
“[And] for your money you’re getting a very good, safe road to drive on.”
In a phone interview Tuesday evening, Davenport Mayor Wes Mattheyer said turnpike access could also address safety for the town, including cutting rides to local hospitals by five to 10 minutes.