Stitt, others cut ribbon for turnpike extension

A group of classic cars takes the first ride on the Mustang extension of the John Kilpatrick Turnpike. The event occurred east of the Morgan Road intersection. Photo / Chris Eversole

“We can accomplish anything we set our mind to,” Gov. Kevin Stitt declared Thursday to several hundred officials, business leaders and media representatives at the partial opening of the Mustang extension of the John Kilpatrick Turnpike.
The extension, which had been in the works for decades and under construction for two years, will benefit today’s children and the state for years to come, Stitt said.
After speaking, the governor joined more than a dozen people who had a role in the project in a ribbon-
cutting ceremony..
Then a group of classic cars revved their engines and made the first trip down the new pavement.
They will be the only drivers who won’t pay the 75-cents Pikepass toll for the length of the extension.
Hundreds of thousands of tolls will be needed to pay for the $235 million cost of the seven-mile project.
Before Stitt spoke, Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt recalled watching the initial planning for the extension throughout his career in government and politics over the past 20 years.
In the year stages, Gary Ridley, who then was an official in the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said the work would never happen, Holt recalled.
Ridley later held the posts of both ODOT director and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority director.
Tim Gatz, who now holds both posts, credited Ridley as one the leaders in accomplishing the massive project.
He also thanked the many other people involved, including the 300 to 400 workers who were on site daily, with accomplishing the work.
“We’ve got the horsepower to get things done,” Gatz said.
“We’ve got transportation covered in Oklahoma.”
State Rep. Brian Hill, who represents the area the extension covers, he welcomed the turnpike extension as a tool for economic development.
“We’re the fastest growing part of Oklahoma,” he said.
“This will help us as we say to people, ‘if you want to do business, bring it here.’”
What opened Thursday was the northbound section of the extension, which stretches between Intersection 40 and State Highway 152 near Council Road.
The southbound section will open in two to three weeks, and work on intersections with local streets will be ongoing into the summer, Gatz said.
“This area will be an active work zone for a few more months,” he said.
He thanked the public for its patience during construction.
“There’s nothing surgical about projects like this,” he said.
“It’s big; it’s dirty; it’s muddy; and it’s very disruptive.”

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