Oklahoma City’s I-30/I-240 Crossroads Interchange Undergoing Major Revamp
Major Modernization: Multi-Phase I-30/I-240 Crossroads Interchange Project Will Replace Outdated Junction With Modern Flyover Design
In the southern part of Oklahoma City, an investment of approximately $140 million in construction projects will ultimately result in a complete reconstruction of the I-30/I-240 Crossroads Interchange. The outdated junction is being replaced with a modern multi-level interchange that will feature dedicated interstate ramps and added ramps, turnaround lanes, and service roads for improved city street access. Construction on the first phases of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) project began in 2016 and is scheduled to be complete in 2026.
The new interchange will address congestion and safety issues by providing new ramps with additional capacity and increased merging distance to accommodate current and future traffic levels. Its features will include:
- Dedicated flyover ramps for traffic moving between I-35 and I-240
- Added I-240 on- and off-ramps to make Santa Fe Avenue a full interchange
- Additional exit lanes from eastbound I-240 to Eastern Avenue
As Cody Boyd of ODOT’s Media and Public Relations Division reports, “This is a major interchange on the south side of Oklahoma City, along the major thoroughfare for this part of town, with a lot of traffic every day. This section of I-35 was built in the early 1960s; it was designed for 30,000 vehicles per day; in 2018 the actual figure was approximately 145,000 vehicles per day. The interchange was originally designed in the 1960’s as a cloverleaf, which was the standard of the day – but it doesn’t meet current needs.
“The new interchange will be a modern multi-level structure with flyovers. It will provide safer entry/exit and facilitate today’s volume and faster speeds. It will also cut down on crashes and congestion, and make for smoother traffic flow.
“Basically, we’re going to bring this interchange into the 21st century, in an area where we only expect more growth. Overall, we expect a 40 percent traffic increase around the state over the next 20 to 30 years, and even more freight – certainly along this corridor.”
The I-30/I-240 Crossroads interchange is near Tinker Air Force Base, both a large employer and an important defense site, Boyd points out.
“The overall project is to be completed over several years,” he continues. “Two phases have already been completed, in 2017 and 2018. Upcoming phases are scheduled in ODOT’s FFY 2020-2027 Eight-year Construction Work Plan, which is moving ahead as funding becomes available. Doing the overall project in phases is allowing us to keep the route open during construction.
“There has been some delay because of other projects with multiple phases,” Boyd adds. “In addition to funding issues, we’ve had some other critical needs which we had to address first. However, work on the interchange project will resume in 2021, with two phases going out for bid then. Upcoming phases will address business access and new flyover ramps to replace short loop ramps that don’t give good places to merge, or even enter or exit.”
Project in Planning Stage for Two Decades
Partners in the I-30/I-240 Crossroads interchange project include the Federal Highway Administration, the City of Oklahoma City, the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, the South Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. The project is being constructed with 90 percent Federal funds and 10 percent state funds, according to Boyd.
Planning for the project, along with the gathering of input and completion of environmental studies, began in early 2000, he reports. “The project really got underway with the first phase in 2016, on the southwest side of the interchange (eastbound I-240 to southbound I-35). This has been the area of the worst traffic backups, which are a significant safety issue with high-speed travel.”
Phase 1, with a cost of approximately $12 million, included reconstruction of I-240 from Santa Fe Avenue east past Shields Boulevard, and conversion of Santa Fe Avenue to a full interchange. The I-240 ramps between Santa Fe and Shields were reversed with construction of a new westbound I-240 off-ramp and eastbound I-240 on-ramp at Santa Fe. The eastbound I-240 off-ramp and westbound I-240 on-ramp at Shields were permanently closed.
Phase 1-A, costing approximately $10.6 million, reconstructed the eastbound I-240 ramp to southbound I-35 and the eastbound to southbound service road between Shields Boulevard and southeast 82nd Street. The eastbound I-240 on-ramp from Shields was permanently closed due to its close proximity to I-35. I-240 traffic now uses a new on-ramp at Santa Fe Avenue.
The southbound I-35 off-ramp to southeast 82nd was permanently closed to make room for a new, longer ramp from I-240. I-35 traffic now uses the off-ramp at southeast 89th Street.
The contract was awarded to Duit Construction/TTK Construction in December 2016. Construction was originally expected to begin in spring 2017; however, work actually began in mid-June 2017 and was completed in summer 2018.
“The contracts came with incentives, where the contractor could earn more money if the work was completed early,” says Boyd. “This helped ease disruptions. The upcoming phases are likely to have incentives as well.”
Looking ahead to the upcoming phases of the project, Phase 1B will include I-240 between Pole Road and Eastern Avenue; the BNSF railroad bridge; northwest, northeast, and southeast service roads; and the southeast 59th Street turnaround. This phase is scheduled for Federal Fiscal Year (FFY) 2021. Also scheduled for FFY 2021 is Phase 4, to include westbound I-240 between Pole Road and Shields Boulevard and westbound I-240 bridge over I-35.
Phase 2 (FFY 2023) includes southeast, northeast and northwest interstate ramps; flyover ramp; and eastbound I-240 bridge over I-35. Phase 3 (FFY 2024) includes eastbound I-240 between Shields and Pole, and flyover ramp.
While drivers can expect periodic lane and ramp closures throughout the project, along with several permanent ramp closures as the interchange is reconfigured, Boyd emphasizes that I-35 and I-240 will remain open to traffic during construction. “Although interstate access for businesses will change, ODOT has worked with the business community, the South Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and City of Oklahoma City to design additional features to help traffic get to and from local businesses. Business access to and from service roads will be maintained during construction.”
ODOT Working Closely With Surrounding Community
The City of Oklahoma City is a major stakeholder in the interchange project, as Boyd points out. “We’ve been getting a lot of input from them to ensure we meet their needs. Several Chambers of Commerce have provided input as well, and some modifications have been made to the project to meet their needs for business access.”
He reports that ODOT has held several project meetings in the surrounding community – to give status updates – and there have also been informal meetings with Chambers, associations, and businesses. “To help keep the public informed, we’ve utilized press releases and social media, produced a video comparing cloverleaf interchanges to flyovers, and another video showing how to use the flyover. The public has been great – very patient about closures and detours; this is helping make it a successful project.”
The biggest challenge on this project is keeping traffic flowing and maintaining access to businesses, Boyd says. “We’re doing a lot of night work, and building the bridges one side at a time so we can keep the other side open. The upcoming project phases, which include hanging flyover beams over the interstate, will be very complex, and will need to be carefully orchestrated. The time crunch, such as overnight work, will also be a challenge for the upcoming phases.
While weather is always a concern on such a major project, and the area has experienced a couple of wet summers in recent years, Boyd reports that weather has not had significant effects on the project’s progress so far.
A Long-Awaited Solution
When all the phases of the I-30/I-240 Crossroads Interchange renewal project are completed, motorists in southern Oklahoma City will reap the benefits of a vastly improved intersection. It is an improvement long in the making, as Boyd points out. “Oklahoma has experienced a bad situation for decades, with limited funding for transportation. Things have been flat for 20 years, and we’ve been behind even in maintenance. We’ve been working feverishly for 15 years to catch up – with more state funding for bridges, pavement, and capacity.
“Finally, we’re able been able to do some of these projects which people have waited for many years, and it’s very gratifying. For south Oklahoma City, this project will be a huge influence on economic development, in a growing part of town with increasing opportunities for business expansion.”