By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
A tentative construction bid opening has been reset this fall on a possible permanent upgrade to the State Highway 66/Banner Road intersection.
Federal funds have been allocated to cover an estimated $450,000 construction cost for the proposed state project just west of Yukon, Oklahoma Department of Transportation documents show.
The Oklahoma Transportation Commission is due to consider contractor bids for the project, described as an “intersection modification” at SH-66 and Banner Road. The bid opening has been delayed twice pending action from Canadian County Commissioners.
ODOT officials earlier this year presented to the public an option to install a roundabout in agreement with District 1 Canadian County Commissioner Marc Hader. After a fatality traffic collision last November, improvements were made earlier this year to create a four-way stop along with several other temporary safety measures.
“We feel it’s safer already and it may have the best solution already in place,” Hader said Thursday. “As a commissioner, I’m comfortable either way.
“It’s at their (ODOT’s) complete discretion to go forward with the project. They don’t have to have our consideration and opinion. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if they decide they want to move forward on their own. It’s their right-of-way.”
Canadian County District 1 would pay $94,045 for the civil engineering design work if the roundabout project proceeds, according to a proposed resolution presented in March.
The state transportation department is waiting for Canadian County Commissioners to approve the resolution for the project, according to ODOT spokeswoman Lisa Shearer-Salim.
“With that not approved, the (September) bid opening will be moved to a later date,” Shearer-Salim said. “We’re waiting on action from the commissioners.”
ODOT division engineer Trenton January has continued to communicate with county commissioners “in an effort to move this forward,” she noted.
“He’s been trying to keep this on ‘front and center’ because we’re ready to move forward,” Shearer-Salim said. “It’s definitely something we want to keep talking about and making sure that people are reminded to pay attention through there.”
Several options have been discussed to make the SH-66/Banner Road intersection safer, with the roundabout and new traffic signals topping the list.
The intersection, considered dangerous by many motorists, has been the site of several dozen serious traffic collisions since the mid-’90s.
The latest major crash occurred in November 2019 when a semi-truck driver allegedly failed to yield and collided with a motorcycle driven by Ray Lee Davis, a U.S. Navy veteran and longtime local businessman. Davis, 73, was killed.
The truck driver, Oklahoma City’s Donald Biffle, 27, was charged in April with second-degree murder. He also faces a wrongful death lawsuit.
HOW TO PROCEED?
Hader, the Canadian County Commission chairman, said he’s waiting to hear from fellow commissioners Jack Stewart and David Anderson on how to best proceed on the proposed roundabout.
Although the intersection is in Hader’s district, he said it’s a county decision whether to participate in the state highway project since the county’s share would be more than $90,000.
“I’ve tried four different resolutions to get a long-term fix on that,” Hader said. “The last time I brought it forward was (this spring) pushing the idea of the roundabout. Besides the high cost of doing the engineering, the other commissioners had some concerns and questions and we decided to table it indefinitely pending any investigation and conversation by them. I left it to either Jack or Dave to bring it back to the board for consideration … to decide if we wanted to move forward.”
As a point of comparison, Chairman Hader referred to the main intersection in Union City at State Highway 81 and Highway 152 that also has a four-way stop with flashing red lights.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the traffic count is pretty similar to 66 and Banner, and they have farm traffic and similar types of traffic there,” he said.
“That’s worked at that intersection and I never hear of horrible accidents or fatalities there.”
ODOT officials believe a roundabout – which engineers say can be built within the existing right-of-way – could provide many safety benefits with considerably less long-term maintenance expense.
A roundabout essentially provides a way to slow down traffic and eliminate conflict points, effectively forcing motorists to pay attention.
As an interim measure, ODOT crews in mid-February installed the four-way stop and large stop signs with lights for traffic in all four directions.
Advance warning signs, flashing red lights and rumble strips also have been installed as part of temporary upgrades.
Previously, the intersection had stop signs only for northbound and southbound motorists on Banner Road who had to stop and yield to oncoming SH-66 traffic.
Biffle caused last November’s fatal crash when he failed to stop at Banner Road, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
“People need to realize the solution is in their hands – driver attention,” ODOT interagency liaison and public relations advisor Terri Angier said.
The Oklahoma Transportation Commission next month is due to consider bids for a bridge construction project just west of Yukon.
A July bid letting is scheduled for a bridge rehabilitation project at State Highway 66 eastbound and westbound over Shell Creek, according to ODOT documents.
Some $3,449,648 in state funds have been allocated to replace “twin bridges” at Richland Road, according to District 3 County Commissioner Stewart.
The site is 8.2 miles east of U.S. Highway 81.