New interchanges create easier routes downtown

By Randy Ellis

The Oklahoman

 

Several new interchanges linking Oklahoma City interstate highways with downtown Oklahoma City opened Friday afternoon — just in time for the season-opening Oklahoma City Thunder NBA basketball game.

 

Motorists now can travel from Interstate 40, Interstate 35 and Interstate 235 directly to downtown Oklahoma City, connecting to E.K. Gaylord/Shields Boulevard, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation announced Friday morning.

 

The opening of the three new direct interstate routes into downtown Oklahoma City was made possible by the recent completion of construction on the east end connection of the I-40 Crosstown corridor.

 

"The opening improves one of the biggest challenges for downtown Oklahoma City visitors, which is entering and exiting the area after events," transportation officials said. "With direct access restored, traffic will flow much more smoothly and ease some of the downtown and Bricktown congestion."

 

Construction crews have been working on development of OKC Boulevard since the relocation of the I-40 Crosstown in 2012.

 

Interstate connections that opened Friday include:

 

• Westbound I-40 off-ramp to westbound OKC Boulevard.

 

• Southbound I-235 off-ramp to westbound OKC Boulevard.

 

• Northbound I-35 off-ramp to westbound OKC Boulevard.

 

• Lincoln Boulevard ramp to westbound OKC Boulevard.

 

• Eastbound OKC Boulevard ramp to eastbound I-40, which also provides access to northbound I-235 and northbound and southbound I-35. This same ramp provides access to Lincoln Boulevard/Byers Boat House District.

 

Allen Contracting Inc. of Oklahoma City is close to completing construction of a $40 million project to build OKC Boulevard between Shields/E.K. Gaylord, along with the interstate ramps and a BNSF Railway bridge crossing, transportation officials said.

 

The project started in 2015.

 

Sherwood Construction Co. of Tulsa built the new interstate ramps on the east end of the OKC Boulevard/Crosstown corridor, which was part of a $27 million project.

 

Temporary lane closures on OKC Boulevard will occur until the railroad bridge construction project is complete, which is expected to happen before the end of the year, officials said.

 

The final two projects needed to complete OKC Boulevard are tentatively scheduled to go to bid in 2017 and 2018. Remaining sections of OKC Boulevard to be built are from Walker Avenue to E.K. Gaylord Boulevard and from Klein Avenue to Walker, transportation officials said.

 

Those projects are estimated to cost $7 million and $15 million, respectively. Once construction starts, each project is expected to take a year and a half to complete so drivers can expect a full opening of OKC Boulevard by early 2020, transportation officials said.

 

The OKC Boulevard project is the final part of the original I-40 Crosstown relocation project that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is doing in partnership with the city of Oklahoma City.