New I-40 Crosstown Opens
It’s being called the Gift of the Century: The new eastbound I-40 Crosstown is running smoothly with the westbound traffic to follow soon.
The nearly $680 million project running from I-44 to I-35 was started six years ago and replaces the long Crosstown bridge which caused so many headaches for decades.
Hundreds of people stand on the new I-40 Crosstown awaiting the words of Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley.
“We are open for business”
The ribbon cutting takes place below the Western Avenue bridge with the walls of the state-of-the-art highway lined in bricks and rising several feet up to ground level, a protection from the Oklahoma wind.
A banner displaying the I-40 Forward logo hangs down in front of dozens of semis ready to take the first trip across the most expensive road project in the state’s history.
The trucks represent the millions of dollars in commerce which travels through what is known as the crossroads of America linking I-35, I-44 and I-40.
Congressman James Lankford says this new Crosstown and its capacity to hold 173,000 vehicles a day will bring more business through Oklahoma City.
“You think about I-35, 44 and 40, just about every product that moves through our country moves through this corridor, just about everything we buy, everything we touch many people that travel from east to west they come right through here.”
The new Crosstown replaces the old long bridge which was built back in 1965.
Former Transportation Secretary Neal McCaleb took part in some of the planning of that bridge as a young engineer and says it just couldn’t handle the increased traffic over the years.
“What this facility is going to do is take us through the 21st century, as Oklahoma City grows, our state gets bigger and we become more prosperous.”
Also, over the decades, the old I-40 became more dangerous and costly as inspections every six months topped $1 million a year.
Governor Mary Fallin says a national study on the state of the old I-40 was a bit of an embarrassment.
“That was something I wasn’t very proud of for Oklahoma is that this bridge was ranked as one of the most structurally deficient bridges in the nation, but today we have changed that.”
The other issue with the old I-40 was that being one long bridge it had a tendency to freeze because it was off the ground.
During severe winter weather the 125,000 daily travelers were riding on very dangerous concrete.
But Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokesperson Terri Angier says not anymore.
“Most of it now is not only on the ground but depressed even which really helps that problem of having to do additional snow and ice removal and that sort of thing so you’re not even going to have that problem in a sense.”
While work began six years ago, ODOT Construction Engineer Anthony Echelle says the project started way before that.
“Fifteen year of work, a lot of work a lot of pre-engineering, a lot of studies, a lot of environmental assessments.”
Environmental studies and pre-engineering aren’t unusual for any road and bridge project
But, before the dirt could even be turned ODOT spent ten years building community consensus about the Crosstown’s new route and major features as well as planning and design.
The project would eventually contain enough pavement to cover about 92 football fields and had to be planned just right.
Echelle would also be overseeing the nine construction contractors who brought in thousands of workers.
After a decade and a half of work, Echelle says it has been a labor of love.
“It’s a sense of pride to be involved in a project like this. This is for me a once in a career type project and it’s been an honor to be involved in it.”
The westbound traffic is expected to be open in the next four to six weeks.
ODOT will than begin to disassemble the old I-40, recycling parts of it for other bridges across the state.
The entire project is expected to be complete by the end of the year.