Editor's note: This editorial has been corrected to remove references to where artifacts found in construction of the Gilcrease Expressway extension would be curated.
The long-awaited extension of the Gilcrease Expressway is drawing closer to completion.
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority reported recently that concrete was due to be poured for the new roadway. The project is ahead of schedule and should be completed in about 18 months.
The $259.3 million toll road bypass around the northwest side of Tulsa will hasten commerce to industrial sites and ease congestion on other Tulsa highways.
According to the most recent Oklahoma Department of Transportation traffic counts, an average of 53,600 vehicles a day travel on Interstate 44 near the south point of the Gilcrease west extension, and an average of 50,600 a day travel on U.S. 412 near the highway’s north point.
We see those numbers going up when the toll connection is finished. In highways, the motto build it and they will come is realistic.
The state awarded a contract on the west leg of the project in July 2019. Eventually, the new highway will connect Interstate 44 just south of West 51st Street to U.S. 412 at Edison Street, a 5-mile link that city planners have wanted for decades.
The critical (and most expensive) links of the new roads are two bridges — one in each direction — over the Arkansas River.
As water and sewer line relocations for the work continue, the contractor expects bridge beams weekly for the next six months.
An interesting discovery during the construction has been more than 7,000 artifacts, some dating to 1,000 years old. The department excavated the items with help from local and regional archeologists and an Osage Nation cultural monitor.
The items, such as pottery and bone fragments, will be curated. Officials responded with the appropriate protocol to preserve the area’s history.
With the help of some decent weather, this seems like the ideal time for the project to stimulate a pandemic-depressed economy and set the stage for a rebound.
The project will complete an outer loop of Tulsa’s northwest side, bringing in new territory for commercial and residential development. Vacant land will be transformed into jobs and homes that will allow for future growth and prosperity.
We welcome progress on the Gilcrease Expressway. The sooner the new road is completed, the sooner it can lead more business, jobs and prosperity into Tulsa.
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