June Transportation Commission Wrap-up
Damage from historic flooding has transportation commission’s attention; nearly $104 million in contracts awarded
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 3, 2015
Highlights of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission’s Monday, May 4 meeting include a report on the highway closures and damage due to unprecedented flooding in several areas of Oklahoma, recognition of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System in eastern Oklahoma and an update on the recently-concluded legislative session. Commissioners approved contracts to construct a new interchange on I-40 in Canadian County, widen SH-9 in Norman and improve the intersection of N.E. 36th St. and Santa Fe. Ave. in Oklahoma City in preparation for future work on I-235. Other contracts were awarded for pavement rehabilitation on I-40 and US-75B in Henryetta and replacement of a SH-76 bridge in Garvin County.
The historic flooding and damage to highways and county roads was the focus of the commission. While the total amount of damage statewide cannot be determined until the waters recede, ODOT leaders are already counting this flood as one of the worst in state history. In the coming weeks, ODOT and the counties will be surveying the damage to roads and bridges and preparing repair projects. With so many highways and roads underwater for so long, pavement problems like potholes will continue to appear for months after the initial assessments and after immediate damage is addressed.
Commissioners approved three emergency declarations to expedite repairs to highways in southeastern Oklahoma impacted by slides during the recent storms, including US-271 in Pushmataha County, SH-1 (Talimena Drive) in LeFlore County and SH-82 in Haskell County. Despite efforts by ODOT maintenance crews to contain the damage, conditions rapidly deteriorated due to heavy rain, forcing US-271 and SH-1 to be closed and SH-82 to be narrowed. Expedited projects to permanently repair the roadways are being designed with the goal of reopening US-271 and SH-1 in the fall and reopening all lanes of SH-82 in mid-July.
The commission recognized a big achievement for eastern Oklahoma’s McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. In May, the United States Department of Transportation officially upgraded the freight waterway’s designation from a “Connector” to a “Corridor” on the national Marine Highway Route. The elevated status places MKARNS along other large waterway systems nationwide and gives it a higher priority for future funding. In 2014, nearly 12 million tons of cargo was moved on the MKARNS system in both Oklahoma and Arkansas, with a total value of just over $4 billion.
Executive Director Mike Patterson reported on the recently-concluded legislative session including changes in state transportation funding. Due to a difficult budget year, ODOT took a $12.5 million cut in motor fuel tax revenue and a $17.5 million cut to the Weigh Station Revolving Fund. However, ODOT plans to work through the cuts and will continue to make necessary highway and bridge improvements with available funding. He also highlighted two new laws that will increase safety in highway work zones. House Bill 1113 requires drivers approaching ODOT or Oklahoma Turnpike Authority maintenance workers and vehicles to move over into another lane if possible. Senate Bill 322 provides for enforcement of temporary speed limit reductions in maintenance work zones.
Contracts for two major projects in the Oklahoma City metro area gained approval. Commissioners awarded a contract with a nearly $17 million base bid for construction of a new I-40 interchange at Radio Rd. in El Reno in Canadian County. Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy announced in 2013 that they would provide funding for this project. They also awarded a nearly $19 million contract to widen more than three miles of SH-9 east of 36th Ave. S.E. in eastern Norman. This is the next of several planned projects to widen the highway to four lanes between Norman and Tecumseh.
Additionally, a nearly $110,000 contract was awarded for intersection improvements at N.E. 36th St. and Santa Fe Ave. in Oklahoma City, which are in preparation for the remaining planned projects to complete the widening of I-235 and reconstruction of the I-44/I-235/Broadway Ext. interchange.
The commission also awarded a contract with a $15.6 million base bid for pavement rehabilitation on I-40 and US-75 Business in Henryetta in Okmulgee County and a contract with a more than $8 million base bid for replacement of the SH-76 bridge over the Washita River near Lindsay in Garvin County. Each of these contracts includes potential financial incentives for early completion of work.
In all, commissioners awarded 29 contracts totaling nearly $104 million to improve bridges, highways, interstates and roads in 21 counties. Contracts were awarded for projects in Alfalfa, Bryan, Caddo, Canadian, Cimarron, Cleveland, Craig, Ellis, Garvin, Kay, Kiowa, Latimer, LeFlore, McClain, Marshall, Oklahoma, Okmulgee, Osage, Payne, Pontotoc, and Pottawatomie counties.
The eight-member panel, appointed by the governor to oversee the state’s transportation development, awards project contracts for road and bridge construction every month. The next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 6 at 11 a.m. in the R.A. Ward Transportation Building in Oklahoma City.
Contracts, bid information, the commission’s monthly agenda and project details can be viewed at www.odot.org.
May’s heavy rains undermined many roadways in southeastern Oklahoma, including US-271 south of Clayton in Pushmataha County. At their Monday, June 1 meeting, members of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission approved an emergency declaration to expedite a repair project estimated at more than $1 million to repair this highway.
The US-377/SH-99 bridge over the Washita River south of Tishomingo in Johnston County has been closed since early May due to flooding. At the Monday, June 1 meeting of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation announced that preliminary damage assessments were underway, but a statewide total will not be known until waters recede.