OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority must reroute a part of their proposed expansion project close to Lake Thunderbird.
“The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority may have to adjust their Southern Extension route, which is the one that was going through the middle of my house,” said Darla LeBlanc. “I did sleep a little bit easier Friday night, but I’m certainly not counting my chickens before they hatch.”
The OTA released an update, saying the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation will not allow the turnpike to cross their land close to the lake and the Norman dam.
“It was nice to see the bureau make such a decisive decision,” said Amy Cerato, an outspoken opponent to the Access Oklahoma Project and a plaintiff in the lawsuits aimed at stopping the previously planned construction.
The proposed route can be seen in brown in the picture below. It would’ve crossed Lake Thunderbird, which is owned by the USBR in at least two places.
The bureau cited Congressionally authorized purposes for the land, saying the agency’s turnpike plan did not meet the land’s intended purposes.
“This is the planning process working as it should. New alignments often get changed early on,” says OTA Deputy Director and Chief Engineer Joe Echelle. “Now we’ll start gathering information to make adjustments. We’ve got time since the South Extension is in the final phase of the 15-year, long-range plan.”
In its update, the OTA added that the USBR indicated willingness to work with OTA on an alignment across pipeline and flowage easements.
“OTA will continue to coordinate and plan the East-West Connector to ensure the easement crossings are planned, designed and constructed without interfering with the easement interests or the Norman Project’s infrastructure or operation,” said the update.