The largest highway expansion and multibridge construction project in terms of cost in Tulsa’s history will be considered next week by the state transportation commission.
The project in west Tulsa will include:
Widening Interstate 44 from four lanes to six between the Arkansas River bridge and Union Avenue.
Replacing the U.S. 75 bridges over I-44, along with replacing and realigning clover-leaf exit/on ramps at the I-44/U.S. 75 interchange.
Replacing U.S. 75 bridges over Mooser Creek just south of the interchange.
Replacing and expanding to four lanes with sidewalks the Union Avenue bridge over I-44.
If the contract is awarded next week, it “would be the single-largest dollar amount ever awarded for a (highway) construction project in Tulsa,” Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kenna Mitchell said.
“This is going to be a big one.”
Mitchell, however, declined to say the potential figure, pending approval of construction bids by the commission at its Sept. 8 virtual meeting. The project is one of several expected to be on the commission’s agenda, she said.
Bids for the project went out in August, she said, and construction companies bid on both construction costs and time frames.
Mitchell said that depending on which bid could be approved, officials anticipate work in the area would last a little over two years.
The projects are part of major improvements for I-44 in west Tulsa, including an eventual new, redesigned interchange at U.S. 75 and widening I-44 to six lanes between the Arkansas River bridge and the I-44/Interstate-244 split.
The I-44 expansion to be considered next week is ahead of schedule in part because of a $45 million federal grant announced in 2018.
Mitchell said work going on simultaneously on I-44 and U.S. 75 is “going to have the most significant impact on traffic.”
She said that while the I-44/U.S. 75 interchange eventually will be redesigned entirely, the new bridges on U.S. 75 over I-44 will have a higher elevation than the current bridges. That will require the current clover-leaf exit/on ramps to be rebuilt and realigned for now, she said.
Meanwhile, the first phase of improvements in the corridor — replacement of the I-44 bridges over 33rd West Avenue — is on schedule to be completed by this spring, Mitchell said.
“Crews poured section of the new westbound I-44 deck last week at 33rd West Avenue,” she said.
“The concrete will cure to strength and they will finish up the other elements on the bridge.”
Traffic in both directions is being diverted to one bridge while work is being completed on the other. Sherwood Construction is the contractor for that $11 million project.
“We’re looking at another traffic switch in the corridor in the next month or two,” Mitchell said.
I-44 between the Arkansas River and the western I-44/I-244 split is the oldest section of interstate highway in Oklahoma.
An average of between 50,300 and 86,700 vehicles per day travel on I-44 between Union Avenue and the Arkansas River bridge, according to 2018 ODOT traffic counts, the most recent available.
An average of 57,300 to 69,200 vehicles per day travel on U.S. 75 near the I-44 interchange, according to ODOT.
Total cost for all improvements in the corridor is expected to be $350 million to $400 million over the next several years, officials said at a public open house on highway plans for west Tulsa in February.
Mitchell at that meeting compared the west Tulsa I-44 improvements’ cost to those east on I-44 several years ago between Riverside Drive and Yale Avenue, which she said was about $380 million.
Those improvements took years.
Of the finished I-44 expansion east of the river, Randle White, ODOT division engineer, said during the public meeting in February: “That’s what we want to do here,” in west Tulsa.
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