May Commission Meeting Wrap-Up: Spotlight on bike and pedestrian safety during National Bike Month; planned I-35 and SH-9 West project discussed; $56 million in contracts awarded
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 5, 2021
Highlights of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission’s Monday, May 3, video teleconference meeting include presentation of a governor’s proclamation for Work Zone Safety Awareness Week, announcement of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s bike and pedestrian safety education effort in May, preview of the upcoming milestone celebration of eastern Oklahoma’s freight waterway and detailed discussion of a planned interchange project at I-35 and SH-9 West in McClain County and the recent McGirt v. Oklahoma court ruling. Contracts were awarded for major projects on SH-152 in Oklahoma County, I-40 and US-266 in McIntosh and Muskogee counties, SH-66 in Creek County and US-270 in Harper County.
Secretary of Transportation and ODOT Executive Director Tim Gatz opened the meeting with the presentation of a proclamation from Gov. Kevin Stitt declaring Work Zone Awareness Week in Oklahoma from April 26-30 and asking drivers to be responsible safety partners with ODOT, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and construction contractors to help reduce driver and worker injuries and deaths in highway work zones. He noted that Oklahomans will need to continue to be alert and patient as they experience travel disruptions due the large amount of highway work underway statewide to replace outdated infrastructure and address pavement conditions following the harsh winter.
Gatz announced the department’s driver safety education effort focusing on bicycle and pedestrian safety in May, which coincides with observance of National Bike Month. He noted that 49 cyclists and 370 pedestrians were killed on Oklahoma roads in the past five years and that bicyclist and pedestrian deaths have been increasing nationwide in the past decade. In addition to daily social media content promoting bicycle and pedestrian safety by ODOT, several activities for Bike Month, Bike to Work Week and Bike to Work Day are planned by local governments and organizations statewide in May. Safety partners ODOT and OTA are bringing a year-round education and awareness campaign dubbed Make Safety Stick: Everybody Click to the public to bring attention to safety issues like seat belt use, distracted driving and basic roadway etiquette to help reduce crashes and save lives.
Gatz also highlighted the upcoming June celebration of the 50th anniversary of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System in eastern Oklahoma, which was dedicated on June 5, 1971. In addition to special anniversary signage installed on highway and turnpike crossings over the river channel and weekly social media content, a celebration ceremony is planned in early June to commemorate the formal dedication of MKARNS by then-President Richard Nixon.
At the request of District 3 Commissioner T.W. Shannon, Gatz gave a detailed presentation on a planned project at I-35 and SH-9 West near Goldsby. While interchange improvements have been discussed since the first edition of ODOT’s Eight-year Construction Work Plan in the early 2000s, McClain County has seen rapid population growth and economic development, bringing higher traffic volumes and more needs to be addressed. Rather than focusing only on addressing one traffic movement inside the interchange, the department is expanding the project to a more comprehensive fix that meets the traffic safety needs of the entire area. This will include consideration of several interchange design alternatives through a public involvement process, including commitments made to the Chickasaw Nation as a major stakeholder.
A separate issue on this project is the preparation of an ODOT agreement with the tribe, which will need to be executed for the partnership. The agreement will be one of the first tribal partnerships addressed through updated protocols due to the complex nature and evolving implications of the McGirt v. Oklahoma ruling on all aspects of state government, including infrastructure projects.
Commissioners approved a more than $7 million contract for SH-152/Airport Rd. widening and interim traffic improvements between the recently completed John Kilpatrick Turnpike southwest extension and Meridian Ave. near Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City and a nearly $5 million contract for bridge improvements at I-40 and US-266 near Warner. They also awarded contracts for several summer pavement improvements, including projects to resurface more than three miles of SH-66 in Sapulpa and nearly five miles of US-270 near Laverne.
Commissioners voted to award 24 contracts totaling nearly $56 million to improve highways, roads and bridges in 32 counties. Contracts were awarded for projects in Beaver, Bryan, Caddo Canadian, Cherokee, Coal, Cotton, Craig, Creek, Beckham, Blaine, Custer, Harmon, Jackson, Garvin, Harper, Hughes, Jefferson, McIntosh, Murray Muskogee, Noble, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Seminole, Sequoyah, Stephens, Texas, Tillman and Washita counties.
A list of all awarded contracts may be found by visiting www.odot.org/contracts, selecting the April 2021 AM letting, clicking Submit, then Award at the bottom of the page.
Three commissioners attended the meeting in-person while the remaining six commissioners participated virtually due to COVID-19 precautions. A recording of this meeting may be viewed online at https://vimeo.com/odot.
The nine-member Oklahoma Transportation Commission, appointed by the governor and legislative leadership to oversee the state’s transportation development, awards contracts for road and bridge construction monthly.
Next month’s Oklahoma Transportation Commission meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, June 7, and will have a quorum of commissioners while observing social distancing. The meeting also will be available to view live on the web.
Contracts, bid information, the commission’s monthly agenda and project details may be viewed at www.odot.org.