I-40 work is on fast track to completion

This piece was part of a double truck piece in The Oklahoman Sunday edition, June 26, 2011. To see the PDF of this piece, with accompanying photographs and timeline, click here. View the other page here.

By: Brandon Goodwin

Construction crews pour concrete over exposed rebar on top of the Walker Street bridge in Oklahoma City. The bridge overlooks an expansive 10-lane interstate construction project, busy with traffic from dump trucks and earthmovers.

The new, four-mile Crosstown Expressway, the most expensive road project in state history, is projected to open next summer, a few months ahead of schedule.

“We’re coming to the last leg of the race,” state Transportation Department Division Engineer Paul Green said.

Crews working on the $670 million project have completed 19 of the 23 individual jobs that make up the new expressway. Three remaining portions still are under construction, and the final piece will be put out for bid in July.

The east and west ends of the main corridor are finished. The middle part of the corridor is paved except for one section. Medians are still being constructed. Walls enclosing the north side of the highway still lack graffiti-proof paint. On-and-off ramps are under construction, officials said.

But opening the new interstate in 2012 will not bring an end to construction for I-40 drivers. “That’s just the day we get them off the old bridge,” said Green.

Traffic will be set in temporary configurations while work is done on the I-40 and I-44 junction on the west side as well as Interstate 35, I-40 and I-235 junctions on the east side of the corridor.

Immediately after the opening of the new Crosstown Expressway, deconstruction of the old elevated roadway will begin.

The new interstate is five blocks south of the current Crosstown Expressway.

The current expressway is a dilapidated version of its former self. Built back in 1966, the two-mile stretch of bridge was the first of its kind in Oklahoma.

Builders speculated the expressway would last 50 years. Construction cost $12.6 million, a small fraction of the price of its successor 45 years later.

In the past decade, repair crews regularly obstruct traffic to patch sections of roadway, which break off and fall to the ground below.

The bridge has raised safety concerns, though Transportation Department officials reassure drivers that the current bridge is safe.

Construction on the new expressway started in late 2005. Federal funding problems delayed parts of construction in 2008. Issues with relocating part of the Oklahoma City railway line delayed work in 2009.

Completion of the 7-year project will unleash another wave of construction barrels and heavy machinery into downtown.

The old Crosstown will be replaced with a six-lane boulevard that is part of MAPS 3, a plan to breathe life into the area south of downtown.