More than a dozen years since work started to realign Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City, the final project – the new Oklahoma City Boulevard – has broken ground.
“This is the last piece of the puzzle for the I-40 Crosstown project,” says Rick Howland, Oklahoma City Resident Engineer with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT). “This will link the east and west ends of the city into the downtown areas.”
Work began on this final $27 million section, being built in the footprint of the old I-40, in February. ODOT expects the project to wrap up in spring 2019. At that time, the City of Oklahoma City will operate and maintain the four-lane road as a low-speed city street. The city has acquired the right-of-way and relocated utilities prior to the commencement of construction.
MacArthur Associated Consultants of Edmond, Oklahoma, engineered the new road. The company served as project management consultant for the I-40 Crosstown Realignment. MacArthur was established in 1976 with two employees and now employs 35 people.
Allen Contracting and its subsidiary company Shell Construction Co., both of Oklahoma City, received the construction contract, which includes incentives for early completion of the approximately 1-mile-long road, from just east of Klein to Shields Boulevard.
“We’ve been involved in all of the Oklahoma City Boulevard construction project contracts to this point and being awarded this last and final contract was a milestone for us,” says Reed Greenhill, a Project Manager with Allen Contracting. “We are glad to have the contract and be constructing this project.”
Family-owned Allen Contracting has been building heavy highways in Oklahoma since 1987. The company specializes in grading, drainage, bridge and surfacing projects. Shell Construction Co., founded in 1962, became part of Allen Contracting in 2013.
Todd Steelman, Project Manager with Allen Contracting for the Oklahoma City Boulevard, says that it’s rather unusual for a project to start at the two ends and finish with the middle portion, as this Oklahoma City Boulevard is doing.
“It’s changing the dynamic in this part of downtown,” Steelman says. “It’s taking a part of downtown that was very industrial, and it is beautifying it.”
The road passes by the site of the planned convention center, part of the city’s sales tax-funded, 10-year MAPS 3 capital improvement program. A new park, a new streetcar system and a new high-rise hotel are being constructed in the area, and ODOT has been coordinating with all of the other projects.
“What is interesting is all of the new development going on down there,” Howland reports. “It’s in conjunction with the new road. Everyone knows it is coming and wants to take advantage of the new access.”
The Project’s History
ODOT began preparing in the 1990s to relocate the original I-40 Crosstown Expressway, completed in 1966. The road was built for a capacity of 75,000 vehicles daily, but more than 125,000 vehicles were using it by the time ground was broken for the new Crosstown in 2005.
Additionally, the road was elevated through downtown, and the structure was deteriorating.
The new 10-lane I-40 Crosstown was designed to handle about 173,000 vehicles daily. The $680 realignment was completed on it in 2012 and one of the largest projects in the department’s history.
While the new expressway excelled at moving traffic near downtown safely, access to it from downtown has been limited until all the projects of the I-40 Crosstown Realignment, including the Oklahoma City Boulevard, are complete. The current project will change that and provide downtown drivers better access to the interstate.
The old I-40 Crosstown Expressway, about five blocks north of the new Crosstown, was deconstructed and about 2,000 steel beams were repurposed, making way for the Oklahoma City Boulevard project, which the department has constructed in five phases.
During the past five years, several projects have been completed. Sherwood Construction of Catoosa built a portion of the east connection, which will connect the boulevard to I-40/I-235/I-35 South (Dallas junction).
Allen Contracting also completed the connection point to the new interstate on the east end in 2017, which included a new interstate off ramp linking I-35/I-40/I-235 to the OKC Crosstown Boulevard, EK Gaylord and a two-phase railroad bridge. The current project, a middle point in the roadway, will connect with that section on the east and another section, completed by Allen in 2013 on the west end of the corridor.
During that construction, artifacts from the city’s oil-town, boom-days were unearthed. Some industrial clean ups were required.
The final section of Oklahoma City Boulevard, now under construction, will have on-street parking and 15-foot-wide sidewalks and bicycle paths. Allen’s contract includes repairing freeway lighting that was previously installed on the I-40 Crosstown projects but is no longer functioning due to copper theft. Locking devices will be installed on the existing light poles and pull boxes to prevent this problem in the future.
The project includes construction of a single-span, prestressed concrete J-beam bridge over Western Avenue, which will have decorative concrete elements and major retaining walls.
“Precast concrete retaining walls with h-pile foundations are going to be used with decorative concrete finishes to enhance the new look in downtown,” Steelman says.
A big challenge on the current project is traffic control and detouring around the construction, Howland and Steelman agree. Street closings and lane shifts are common.
“We have had countless number of meetings over the last two weeks trying to get this ironed out to satisfy Oklahoma City and the contractor to make this work for everyone and the driving public,” Howland says.
Steelman reports Allen Contracting has sequenced this project in a way that will enable it to be constructed and paved a block at a time, in an effort to turn portions over to the state so those completed sections can be reopened as the road continues to be built.
“Traffic downtown is a nightmare, with so many projects going on,” Steelman says. “If we can give them back a block at a time, it will help in managing traffic.”
With the last segment of Oklahoma City Boulevard construction, ODOT can see excitement build, as development takes place in the old alignment, revitalizing the city and providing people with greater access to the interstate.
“It will be very exciting to have this completed,” Howland says. “It’s the last part of this corridor.”
Owner: Oklahoma Department of Transportation
Design Consultant: MacArthur Associated Consultants, Edmond, Oklahoma
Contractor: A joint venture of Allen Contracting and Shell Construction, both of Oklahoma City
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