By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
EL RENO – A consultant has been hired to design a much-anticipated safety upgrade at a central Canadian County intersection.
Canadian County Commissioners, at their weekly meeting Aug. 3, approved an engineering services contract with Freese and Nichols, Inc. for the State Highway 66 and Banner Road intersection.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) officials plan to make permanent upgrades to this intersection west of Yukon, site of many serious traffic collisions – including several fatalities – since the mid-1990s.
Freese & Nichols, Inc.’s design will help determine what type of improvement is done to the SH-66/Banner Road intersection – a roundabout, new traffic signals or making permanent the intersection’s “temporary” four-way stop.
“They’re supposed to come up with several options for that intersection,” said Canadian County Commission Chairman Marc Hader, the District 1 commissioner.
Canadian County District 1 will pay $25,000 toward a maximum $94,045 design cost, with ODOT covering the rest.
The intersection is in ODOT’s right-of-way within an unincorporated area of Commissioner Hader’s district.
There will be at least one public hearing to solicit citizen input before ODOT officials decide how to proceed with the SH-66/Banner Road project.
Canadian County Commissioners in June approved a project agreement with ODOT for an “intersection modification” project. Under the agreement, ODOT will cover the construction cost “of up to $450,000” from the state’s traffic safety fund.
Primary options that have been discussed are installation of a single-lane roundabout and new four-way traffic signal lights.
ODOT officials will solicit construction bids from contractors for the SH-66/Banner Road project after the design is completed.
“We’re glad to see the engineering contract move forward,” ODOT spokeswoman Lisa Shearer-Salim said. “We are very committed to the project and we will put it back on the (Oklahoma Transportation Commission) bid letting as soon as we hear a design timeline.
“It could be after the first of the year before it goes on the bid letting.”
WHAT ABOUT ROUNDABOUT?
The engineering contract approved Aug. 3 with Freese and Nichols, Inc. indicates the consultant “will prepare design plans” for construction of a roundabout “to better facilitate turning movements and enhance safety” through the SH-66/Banner Road intersection.
The document reads:
“The design of a single-lane roundabout will include traffic control, signage and striping, reducing the approach lanes on the WB and EB approach to a single lane, high speed entry deflection along both EB and WB approaches, mill and fill operations the full length of the improvements (excluding the downstream legs), investigate solar lighting conversion, and placement of modular curb.”
As part of its investigation, the project consultant will evaluate existing street light poles and infrastructure for potential “solar lighting retrofit.”
Some Canadian County citizens, including Commissioner Hader, believe “interim” measures in place since February could be the best solution.
This includes a four-way stop with red flashing lights, large advance warning signs and rumble strips.
Hader thinks adding “step-down” speed limits also should be explored.
A public outcry for a substantial upgrade to the SH-66/Banner Road intersection followed the death of Yukon’s Ray Lee Davis, 73, in a November 2019 crash.
A U.S. Navy veteran and longtime Yukon retail carpet store owner, Davis was riding a motorcycle on SH-66 when he struck a semi-truck that allegedly had failed to yield from Banner Road.
Oklahoma City’s Donald Biffle, 27, has been charged in Canadian County District Court with second-degree murder and unlawful drug possession. Biffle, the semi-truck driver who allegedly failed to yield at the intersection, is being housed at the Canadian County Jail.
Biffle faces 10 years to life in prison for second-degree murder and two more years in jail on drug possession charges.
A preliminary hearing is set Aug. 19 before Special Judge Khristian K. Strubhar in Canadian County District Court.