Turner Turnpike Turns Towards the Future
A construction crew works on a road to expand the median. The Turner Turnpike has begun similar construction to expand the turnpike, widen the shoulder, and implement lights along the center median of the road. (Provided/Pixabay)
The eastern end of the Turner Turnpike continues construction to expand from four to six lanes, stretching from Bristow to the Creek Turnpike in Tulsa, due to an increase in traffic volume, accidents and fatalities.
“It will end sometime in 2021. That’s when we anticipate the final project to be completed,” said Jack Damrill, Oklahoma Turnpike Authority spokesperson.
Damrill said the project began in the middle of Aug. 2017.
According to Damrill the project is going to cost $300 million.
“We saw traffic volumes starting to increase significantly over the last five to six years between Bristow and Tulsa,” Damrill said. “Sometimes we would see double digit increases every year on that section. At the same time, we saw an increase in traffic accidents and fatalities in that section.”
— Oklahoma Turnpikes (@OKTurnpike) August 9, 2017
The end result of the construction, from Bristow to the Creek Turnpike in Tulsa, will be expanding the turnpike from four to six lanes, a wider shoulder and lighting down the middle, much like the Kilpatrick Turnpike.
“We wanted to light the whole thing to increase the safety aspect,” Damrill said. “We wanted to give drivers at nighttime a better view of what they’re coming up on.”
Right now, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is looking at options for the same construction to take place on the other end of the Turnpike from the Wellston or Chandler area to Oklahoma City, but Damrill said there is not a time table on that.
The construction is also a part of a current program called the Driving Forward program to improve the Oklahoma highway infrastructure.
“It’s part of our Driving Forward program that we have going on,” Damrill said. “The governor announced it in October of 2015 and this is one of six projects that we are doing.”
The Turnpike Authority is also replacing the asphalt on the turnpike with concrete. According to Damrill, concrete lasts longer than asphalt and limits the number of repairs that have to be made over the years.
One cause of the traffic increase is due to residents of places such as Bristow and Tulsa traveling to Tulsa for work. This is most likely because Tulsa is continuing to expand, Damrill said.
“This is commuter traffic that is commuting into Tulsa on a daily basis and vice versa at the end of the day,” Damrill said.
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority asks people to be patient as sections are under construction, because the end result of the construction will be something that people are extremely happy with, according to Damrill.
“This is a major project undertaken in Oklahoma in quite some time transportation and construction wise,” said Damrill. “It’s a really massive project.”
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s website provides information on current traffic and road conditions. The construction may cause some reductions in speed through those areas, as well as roads being closed.
“There’s a science to building roadways and keeping them around for 50 years,” Damrill said. “That’s how you build a roadway. You build it 50 years down the road, not for today.”
The Turner Turnpike opened 65 years ago, and big construction like this project has not been done in 50 years, according to Damrill. This will be the first time that the base of the roadway has been touched since the turnpike opened.