By Conrad Dudderar
Canadian County officials are moving forward with plans to make safety improvements along historic Route 66 in western Canadian County as part of a national bicycle route.
Canadian County Commissioners have approved a resolution to sponsor a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) application and maintenance agreement with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
By a 2-1 vote, commissioners agreed to apply for up to $4 million in federal funds for the first three phases of a proposed five-phase project in District 3.
Canadian County is seeking federal grant funds through ODOT for bike route and road shoulder improvements along U.S. Route 66 from Highway 81 to the west edge of the county.
Besides proposed safety enhancements, consulting engineer Scott Barrett of Halff Associates referred to the potential economic benefits of improving this part of Route 66 in Canadian County.
“With this being designated as a national bicycle route, you’re going to get people from out-of-state spending tourism dollars in the area,” Barrett told county commissioners. “We want to make sure they can find their way through the county and do it safely.”
In his last meeting as Canadian County’s District 3 commissioner, state Sen. Jack Stewart (R-Yukon) endorsed the historic Route 66 bike route project.
“It would be a real tourism boom,” said Stewart, now Oklahoma’s District 18 senator. “Everyone likes to drive old 66 … it’s an historic route.
“This is a very-much-needed project in every aspect – the safety of the bicyclists, the safety of the traveling public and economic development.”
The grant would provide 80% federal funds, with Canadian County District 3 committing funds for a 20% local match.
The proposal calls for widening the shoulders on both sides and installing bike route signage, pavement markings and striping in a 23.1-mile project.
ODOT’s federally funded TAP budget is being supplemented by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), a COVID-19 pandemic stimulus relief package.
“That’s why they have a much-bigger ‘pot’ than they normally have right now,” Barrett pointed out.
The normal TAP budget is around $12-$14 million annually. With ARPA funds available, this year’s budget is about $35 million.
Canadian County District 1 Commissioner Marc Hader voted against the resolution. While supporting the proposed Route 66 safety project, Hader opposes the federal funding sources.
“I’m one that’s very reticent to be spending all these dollars that are creating all the inflation for our country,” he said. “Everybody looks like it’s ‘free candy’ but it’s putting debt on our kids and grandkids.”
U.S. BIKE ROUTE
Barrett outlined the Route 66 bike route proposal during the Nov. 21st Canadian County Commissioners’ meeting.
He is vice president and Oklahoma City operations manager for the engineering/architecture consulting firm Halff Associates.
Barrett also is an experienced cyclist, riding about 2,000 miles per year.
The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has designated the U.S. Bicycle Route across Oklahoma, from the Texas state line to Kansas state line on Route 66.
The existing U.S. bike route in Oklahoma includes sections south of Route 66 on Highway 81 and west and north on Highway 37.
Canadian County is applying for federal funds to cover the 23.1-mile gap in the main route.
“We’re proposing to make safety improvements using TAP money on the portion that is the original, historical Route 66 so that the cyclists can stay on the historic route,” Barrett explained.
“The detour route that they’ve selected to finalize the national bike route actually takes cyclists 30 miles out of the way and also puts them on roads that have up to 14,000 vehicles a day.”
Route 66 along the proposed bike route alignment on the west half of Canadian County averages a maximum of 5,400 vehicles per day.
Barrett referred to the need to make safety improvements along this 23.1-mile stretch of historic Route 66, which carries heavy oil and gas truck traffic.
Among proposed improvements are:
- Eight-foot-wide road shoulders
- Rumble strips on the edge of shoulders
- Pavement markings indicating the road is shared by vehicles and bicycles
- New bike route signage
- Concrete pavement repairs
The most dangerous spots for cyclists along this route are at Historic Fort Reno, Highway 270 and Highway 281, engineer Barrett said.
At each spot, a sign would be installed with LED lights powered by a solar panel that reads “Warning: Bicycle Crossing,”
When cyclists come up to the sign, they’d push a button to activate the lights that warn passing motorists.
FIVE PHASING OPTIONS
The project’s five phasing options and estimated costs are:
- Bike route improvements (23.1 miles): Bike route signage, pavement markings and striping with pavement repairs – $1,076,289
- Shoulder improvements A (5.5 miles): North shoulder addition from one mile west of US 270 to Foreman Road – $1,320,954
- Shoulder improvements B (6 miles): North shoulder addition from US 281 to one mile west of US 270 to Foreman Road – $1,427,841
- Shoulder improvements C (5.5 miles): South shoulder addition from one mile west of US 270 to Foreman Road – $1,320,954
- Shoulder improvements D (6 miles): South shoulder addition from US 281 to one mile west of US 270 to Foreman Road – $1,427,841
Canadian County Commissioners, by the 2-1 vote, agreed to the resolution covering the first three proposed phases. The resolution indicates District 3 agrees to pay the local match and maintain the project.
Halff Associates’ Barrett was expected to submit applications to ODOT for the three project phases by a Nov. 30 deadline.
Applications for the final two phases could be submitted later.
Total estimated project cost for all five potential phases is $6.6 million; federal funds would cover about $5.2 million.