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Studies delay Oklahoma's SH 9 project

Studies delay Oklahoma's SH 9 project

By Don Gammill Newsok
Published: June 8, 2009

Let’s try this again.

I’ve had a clipping of your June 11, 2007, column over my desk for almost two years now.

In that article, you described how (the Oklahoma Department of Transportation) planned to take bids to start the widening of State Highway 9 in Norman in 2009. Well, it’s 2009 now.

Has ODOT made any moves on this road so far this year? I work right at the point where SH 9 narrows from two lanes to one.

Wouldn’t you know it; I have to travel the single lane part twice a day. Obviously, I and many of my co-workers are keenly interested in this project.

Your article also mentioned how widening SH 9 east to 72nd Street (dare I hope all the way to 84th?) would wait "for several more years.” 

In light of the latest economic stimulus plan and its emphasis on infrastructure, is it conceivable that the entire project could be moved up, making SH 9 a more pleasant road to travel?

Brian Hart,
Oklahoma City

Thanks for the reminder, Brian. As I said last week, we all need them from time to time.

The Transportation Deparment’s David Meuser says the good news is, it’s still on the books. Bad news is, there has been a delay.

"In 2005, with necessary environmental studies in hand, widening SH 9 from 24th (Street) to 84th was scheduled to begin in late 2006,” he says. "However, due to continued discussion over requests made by the city for changes to the highway design, construction had been postponed.

"Recently, city and state officials appear to have reached a conclusion on matters. Of course, any changes will have to meet federal safety guidelines.

"ODOT officials believe some, and perhaps all, of the environmental studies required by federal law will have to be updated,” Meuser said.

"These necessary studies look at dozens of issues that could be impacted by highway construction, such as historic structures, wildlife habitats, utilities and the impact the highway will have on those who live nearby.

"Federal guidelines dictate the highway cannot be designed until the environmental studies are done, which is the first critical phase in any project.

"The best estimate is that at least a year’s work remains to be done on the studies alone. Then it would take at least another two years to design the highway, purchase right of way and move utilities. Only then could construction begin.” 

Regarding your question about stimulus money for the project, Meuser said, "since the economic stimulus plan required projects be "shovel ready,” SH 9 does not qualify.

"Because most projects in Oklahoma were already included in ODOT’s eight-year construction program, stimulus money could impact SH 9 indirectly when the plan is rebalanced this fall.”

By the way ...
Motorists aren’t the only ones recognizing the need for change.

"ODOT engineers have long agreed improvements on SH 9 east of Interstate 35 are long overdue,” Meuser said, "which is the reason for these lengthy discussions.” 

Let’s hope we can get this on a faster — but correct — track.

Enjoy your week and drive safely.

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