Plans for downtown boulevard come under fire

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Plans to replace the old I-40 Crosstown with a more pedestrian-friendly downtown boulevard have come under fire.

Local business owners and some city leaders aren't happy with current designs for the boulevard being drawn up by ODOT.

Part of the planned boulevard will be at street level but not all of it.

Critics said elevating sections of the roadway will only lead to more urban blight.

South of the Chesapeake Energy Arena, the boulevard will include sidewalks, landscaping and 25 mile an hour traffic.

However, west of Dewey running to Penn, ODOT's current plans call for an elevated four-lane high speed roadway.

"We've torn down an elevated roadway. Now we're gonna build it back. I don't understand the logic behind it," business owner Bert McAnally said.

"Everytime you see an overpass, it's a disaster," another said.

Several citizens came to city council to speak against an elevated boulevard.

"To replace an elevated expressway with another elevated expressway is repeating the mistakes of the past," Oklahoma City councilman Ed Shadid said.

Shadid also disagrees with ODOT's proposal to build a bridge over the intersections of Classen and Western on Reno.

He wishes for a street level roundabout.

"When you build above grade, with fast traffic and retaining walls, you cut off one side of downtown from another," Shadid said.

"The city's desire is to put as much on the ground as possible. It's easier to maintain and it's more pedestrian-friendly," OKC public works director Eric Wenger said.

Still, city planners said an elevated roadway may be the only feasible engineering option in some spots and would not be the same as the old crosstown.

"We don't want to create what just got torn down," Wenger said.

No decisions were made by the city council Tuesday.

The goal is to begin construction of the boulevard in less than a year.

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