It’s not too late if you want to have your opinion heard concerning the U.S. Interstate 35/State Highway 9 interchange.
But you better hurry. Comments are being accepted through December 9.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation presented four design alternatives for the interchange at a meeting in Goldsby last week, with lead engineers saying they are confident that any of the four will work.
The mayors of both Newcastle and Goldsby have said their cities are on board for one in particular, believing that it best serves all the interests in the area, and provides the best traffic movement.
Ron Brown, Division 3 district engineer, said after many years of multiple iterations for the interchange, ODOT has the design down to four possibilities.
ODOT will be considering all comments made, select a preferred alternative, complete its environmental document, start right-of-way acquisition and utilities relocation in fiscal year 2022, and then begin construction in fiscal year 2023, Brown said.
“This is a very, very aggressive schedule, Brown said.
Engineers culled from the previous designs, dating back to 2009, to present what they term as Alternative 2A, Alternative 2B, Alternative 3D, and Alternative 4.
Brown said Alternative 2A is a Divergent Diamond interchange which is unique in that it increases the signal spacing through a partial realignment of S. Harvey Road, and also has a slight realignment of West Frontage Road. Both directions of traffic cross to the opposite side of the bridge to increase some efficiencies of the interchange, he said.
Alternative 2B is also a Divergent Diamond, Brown said, but introduces a reliever ramp for the southbound traffic on I-35 to go onto the West Frontage Road. It also realigns the West Frontage Road. This realignment is different because it restores continuity because of the southbound reliever ramp. From this point to S. Lamar Avenue becomes a one-way street, so ODOT would also restore the connectivity with N. 12th Avenue.
Alternative 3D is a Loop Interchange with Reliever Ramp, as well, Brown said. The signal spacing is increased as it is in the first two options. Key features of this interchange include realignment of S. Harvey Road and a reconnection with the Frontage Road similar to option 2B. Because of the reliever ramp that ODOT would be able to create, it also becomes a one-way at this point. Brown said this alignment restores connectivity to the County road system and to 12th Avenue. He said it’s a very efficient interchange and can handle the traffic that is presented today and in the future.
Alternative 4 is a “Single-Point Urban Interchange” also known as a SPUI. Key features are that the signal spacing is increased though a partial alignment of S. Harvey Avenue and a minor adjustment in the West Frontage Road. A SPUI is a compact and large footprint that can handle very large volumes of traffic, Brown said. It takes about 80% of the traffic movements through the traffic signal. Brown added that SPUIs are able to accommodate most of the movements through the traffic signal, and can handle higher turning capacities, and trucks can easily navigate through SPUIs.
Newcastle Mayor Karl Nail said the City of Newcastle prefers Alternative 2B, the Divergent Diamond Interchange with the added reliever route.
“This option provides for a large amount of traffic movement and also has the reliever road that will allow a large amount of the traffic that is going to Riverwind Casino and to the housing areas behind the casino to bypass entering Highway 9,” Nail said.
Goldsby Mayor Glen Berglan said, “This (alternative) 2B really looks good. We met with the Chickasaw Nation and they would like to build a street from the end of that reliever ramp where it goes under the underpass and traffic can go off onto 12th Avenue across to the casino, and I think that will help even better.”
Berglan said there is a tremendous amount of activity with dirt already moving on the west side of Goldsby for 2,000 residential homes.
Brown said all four of the proposed alternatives improve traffic operations.
“All alternatives can be completed with no property acquisitions and no frontage road work east of I-35,” Browns said. “Existing signal spacing is increased between the southbound I-35 off ramp and South Harvey Avenue through the realignment of South Harvey Avenue and improves safety and traffic flow to/from local businesses.”
While the project is a priority for ODOT on an “aggressive” schedule, there are still some environmental concerns that could impact the project. Melissa Booth, of Triad Design Group Inc., explained that there will be a necessity to control sediment in the Canadian River, consideration of any impact to Whooping Crane habitat, and avoidance of migratory bird nesting season during construction, as well as avoidance of two off site cultural resource sites.
Public comment on the overall project or on the Alternative designs is still being taken through December 9. Ways to leave comments include: downloading a comment form and submitting it to ODOT on their website, mailing comments to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Environmental Programs Division, 200 N.E. 21st Street, Oklahoma City, OK 73105; emailing comments to email@example.com; or, by calling and leaving a detailed message at 405-325-3269.
The existing I-35/SH-9W interchange was constructed 1959 and served its purpose well until the area began getting economic development and all the traffic generators, Brown said. In 2001, the H.E. Bailey Turnpike that connects SH-9W to I-35 was constructed by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.
SH-9 in the area was four-laned in 2003 to 2005. Brown said in 2009 the SH-9 bridge at I-35 was the worst one in the district, so the bridge was replaced with the 80-foot bridge that it is now. He said ODOT also did some work on the ramps and signalization in the area at that time.
ODOT Chief Engineer Brian Taylor said the Operational Improvements at the I-35/SH-9W interchange are currently programmed into ODOT’s 8-Year Construction Work Plan for $24.5 million. Three out of the four alternatives proposed are projected to cost less than that amount; however, if the alternative is chosen which costs more than the $24.5 million, Brown said he would find the money to ensure it is completed.
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