By CHRIS EVERSOLE
The end is in sight for the rough travel on the John Kilpatrick Turnpike between the Northwest Expressway and State Highway 66.
That was the good news that Joe Echelle, the assistant to the executive director of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, delivered at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon Thursday.
“The authority’s goal is to complete the $55 million rebuilding of bridges and widening of the roadway for future expansion in the area by next summer to next fall,” he said at the luncheon, held at 10 West Main.
The project is on a fast timeline as such projects go, having begun in October.
The added capacity is greatly needed due to a 50 percent increase in traffic volume in the area over the past six years.
“The normal growth is 2 to 3 percent a year, not the 12 to 13 percent we’ve been experiencing,” Echelle said.
The turnpike expanded the project beyond its original scope. In addition to adding pavement for future lanes, the work involves refurbishing the two bridges between Wilshire Boulevard and SH-66.
Turnpike officials decided to replace portions of the bridges because of the ride they’ve had since they were built, Echelle said.
When they were constructed, the turnpike authority was relatively new in building such bridges.
It expected they would camber upward slightly at first, then settle down to be flat.
“They never relaxed,” Echelle said.
He also provided an update on the turnpike’s expansion through Mustang.
The turnpike authority’s goal is to open the interchange at SW 15th Street by the time school starts or shortly thereafter, he said.
The target for the expanded interchange at the intersection of the turnpike and I-40 is September.
Predicting the opening of the complete seven-mile extension through Mustang and ending at State Highway 152 is challenging.
The contractor has an incentive to finish the project by February, but work may take until next spring, Echelle said.
Weather slowed progress on the more than $200 million project, but crews are making up some lost time, he said.
He also outlined other turnpike authority projects.
A new section of turnpike going north and south to the east of Oklahoma City is in progress.
The project will bring the small town of Wellston within a 30-minute commute to Oklahoma City.
“All of a sudden, Wellston will become a popular place to live,” Echelle said.
The turnpike authority is constructing five miles of new turnpike known as the Gilcrease Expressway as part of a western loop around Tulsa.
Tulsa officials had tried to build this route since 1961, but they hadn’t been able to put together the funding for it.
By adding the turnpike authority as a partner, the project is able to move forward.
The turnpike authority receives 96.8 percent of its revenue from tolls, Echelle noted.
“Taxpayers don’t have to pay for the turnpikes, and all the people of Oklahoma benefit from them,” he said.