OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority unveils its plans for a new turnpike in northeastern Oklahoma County that has faced stiff opposition from local landowners.
“The engineers spent several days inside closed door rooms trying to come out with the best route we could, definitely have the least impact on the least number of people, and we believe we’ve done that,” said Jack Damrill, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
“This is a necessary route to help with the safety issue in Oklahoma City. I know a lot of people don’t believe that but this area is developing so quick. There are a lot of accidents that happen in this area.”
Turnpike officials released the preliminary alignment for the northeast Oklahoma County loop at a public meeting Thursday at the Harrah Church, where they had a chance to chat one-on-one with engineers.
Many of the people who showed up were holding their breath, wondering if their home was one of about 100 that fell in the turnpike’s path.
“I thought I was going to stroke out, to be honest,” said Susan Fortune, whose family has owned land in the area since 1929. “The last six months it has upset us so much.”
The road runs pretty close to her home, but she said “it’s an answered prayer. We have prayed and prayed and prayed.”
Others, like Terry Morton, broke down in tears, as they found out how close the proposed road would come to their home.
“I just feel really cheated,” she told NewsChannel 4. “I’m a cancer survivor, I fought for my life. I acquired this property as my dream home, my dream property and I’ve worked on it for the last three years, invested everything emotionally, physically, financially that I have into it. And I just feel really undermined by my whole state, to be honest with you.”
The OTA says there are still small tweaks to be made to the plan, but the southern portion of the loop won’t change much.
But the OTA was seeking input on where to place several highway on and off ramps while also polling the public for its thoughts on where to tie the extension to I-44.
One option would link the two between Peebly and Triple XXX, while the other would connect between Dobbs and Harrah.
The Turnpike Authority plans to buy the homes that ultimately fall in the way of the turnpike, with Damrill adding they should expect a generous offer.
“It’s not easy taking homes,” he said. “It’s one of the hardest things our engineers have to do and that’s why when they go and develop a route like this they really try to avoid as many houses as they can.”
State officials announced last year plans to issue $900 million in bonds to expand and renovate Oklahoma’s turnpike system. Among the projects is a planned $300 million, 21-mile tollway loop linking interstates 40 and 44 in eastern Oklahoma County.
A more finalized plan should be available in mid to late April.
“If we don’t do it now, it will be very difficult to do in the future because all of this land is going to be developed,” Damrill said. “Instead of affecting a couple hundred people we’ll be affecting a couple thousand people. So this is the prime time to do it.”