By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
A $55 million project began Thursday, Nov. 1 to widen North Canadian River bridges as traffic volumes grow rapidly on the west section of the John Kilpatrick Turnpike north of the I-40 interchange.
Manhattan Road and Bridge was awarded the construction project at the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority (OTA)’s Sept. 25 board meeting. Work began this week and is expected to be completed in 2020, with 520 days allotted in the contract.
The work zone along the Kilpatrick Turnpike will be about 2-1/2 miles long, extending from the Route 66 interchange north to the Wilshire interchange.
“We’re asking for the public’s patience,” OTA spokesman Jack Damrill said. “The end result, they will appreciate the bridge will be a smooth ride and it will be widened to six lanes.
“We’re pretty excited and I know the public will be very excited.”
As a part of the bridge widening, most of the existing bridge beams and deck will be replaced to fix deteriorated sections and deck profile issues. This will correct existing problems with an uneven, “wavy” surface on the bridge.
Most of the initial work will be done underneath the bridge as the contractor builds the piers on the riverbed.
OTA officials anticipate short periods of one-lane travel within the work zone and no change of access to Route 66 or Wilshire during the project.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to maintain both lanes open in both directions, most of the time,” Damrill said.
Motorists should use caution while driving, follow construction signs and pay attention to turnpike workers while driving in the construction zone.
The OTA is proceeding with this bridge widening project in advance of completing an extension of the Kilpatrick Turnpike south of I-40 to connect to State Highway 152.
Opening the south extension is expected to increase traffic “exponentially, quickly” on the full extent of the Kilpatrick Turnpike, Damrill said.
“Because of where those bridges sit and all the exits, we feel it’s necessary now to widen those bridges in that 2-1/2-mile area before that extension opens up,” he said.
While a widening project for the turnpike’s west section has not yet been scheduled, the North Canadian River bridges and overflow bridges “present very challenging traffic management issues for widening even under current traffic conditions,” OTA executive director Tim Gatz said.
“OTA and our contractors appreciate the patience of the traveling public and look forward to the completion of this important infrastructure enhancement to our network. We are investing in our infrastructure with a constant focus on safety, traffic management and the growing needs of our system.”
OTA needs to continue with its turnpike widening initiative to continue providing “the safest possible passage and best left of serve” to the traveling public and its PIKEPASS customers, Gatz added.