By Jeff Harrison
One major road project in eastern Oklahoma County is expected to begin early next year.
Another will have to wait.
The Oklahoma Transportation Commission on Monday morning awarded a $71.3 million contract to rebuild the Choctaw Road interchange and widen I-40 to six lanes between I-240 and Peebly Road. Work is expected to begin early next year and take about two years to complete.
At the same meeting, ODOT executive director Mike Patterson announced the department will delay projects across the state and cut others as they grapple with ongoing reductions in state funding. The changes were included in ODOT’s new Eight-year Plan.
Two major projects in the Mid-Del area were among those delayed.
Plans to replace I-40 bridges over Crutcho Creek, SE 15th St. and Sooner Rd. in Del City will have to wait one more year. The project was pushed back from 2019 until 2020. The aging bridges have required emergency repairs on several occasions in recent years. The combined project is expected to cost $58.6 million.
ODOT spokesperson, Lisa Shearer-Salim said delays with the bridges are not entirely due to finances. ODOT and local municipalities are working to relocate several major utility lines near Crutcho Creek. She said the department is looking at additional maintenance projects to further extend the life of the Crutcho Creek and SE 15th Street bridges.
A few miles east, a $110 million project to reconstruct the Douglas Boulevard interchange and widen I-40 to six lanes between the interchange and I-240 junction has been delayed from 2020 until 2025.
The plans includes widening I-40 to six lanes from Douglas Blvd. to the I-240 interchange. The Douglas Blvd. interchange will also be replaced with a larger Single Point Urban Interchange. The design is similar to a diamond interchange with a single signalized central intersection in the center of the bridge.
Additionally, the project would remove the Engle Rd. bridge over I-40 that provided access to a residential neighborhood south of I-40. This bridge is currently closed to traffic.
Overall, 40 construction projects totaling more than $204 million were removed from the updated Eight-year Plan and about 42 percent of all programmed projects are being delayed at least one year, including 65 projects that were originally scheduled to go to bid this year. Several other projects have been significantly reduced in scope in order to stretch funding as far as possible.
“It was very challenging and frustrating to rebalance the Eight-year Plan while keeping our commitment on structurally deficient bridges and trying to address pavement conditions and urban highway congestion,” Patterson said at the meeting. “The cumulative state funding reductions since 2010 have produced a snowball effect where projects have been pushed back later and later and now they’re being pushed out of the plan, which changes our strategy and moves us in the wrong direction.”
The Eight-Year Plan is updated annually to reflect projects that have been completed, added or modified.
The Choctaw Road interchange and widening project was not impacted because it had been opened for bids before the revised 8-Year Plan was announced.
Duit Construction, of Edmond, was awarded the Choctaw Road project contract after submitting the lowest and best bid, according to ODOT officials. The winning bid was more than $20 million below ODOT’s estimate. The company can earn an additional $3.7 million if it meets incentives for finishing the project early. The contractor can receive $15,000 for every day they finish early with a maximum of 125 days. They can also receive up to an additional $200,000 if they reduce the amount of time needed to completely close the interstate and remove the XXX Road bridge.
ODOT will allot 800 days for the project and up to 20 hours to completely close the interstate for the bridge removal.