By Rep. Mike Sanders
I’ve received numerous constituent questions on local transportation projects. Today, I want to provide an update on the State Highway 51/US-270 junction project and plans for bridges on US-60. I also want to mention that we have totaled up the projects in the eight-year transportation plan for Dewey County and that amount is $90.56 million from 2016 to 2023.
The project to surface the parallel lane southeast of Seiling was let out to bid in March of 2015. It includes plans to provide turn lanes at the SH-51/US-270 junction because of the many accidents, deaths and near deaths that have occurred on it. The project was awarded to Cornell Construction Company in April.
Flooding in the spring and summer of 2015 and winter weather have delayed the project. May was the wettest month in state history. This spring and summer rain combined with winter weather conditions have ultimately pushed back the majority of all state transportation projects by about seven to nine months. Cornell Construction Company is just now finishing up the work on a previous project in Kiowa County.
Barring further weather delays, construction should begin within the next few week on the resurfacing of the parallel lanes. However, because of potential slick conditions in January and February, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation has asked that Cornell not start the portion of the project adding the turn lanes to the SH-51/US-270 junction before March 1, but that it must be started no later than April 1. Once Cornell begins the project to add the turn lanes, they have 45 days to complete them, with a penalty of $1,000 per day for every day past that 45-day mark.
I know that these delays can be frustrating but I also want to remind you how hard the state transportationagency is working for us. I was told that the US-270 corridor is progressing faster than any other corridor in our area. ODOT has also informed me that they are moving up two US-270 projects in the eight-year plan. First, a rehabilitation project southeast of Seiling will let out bids in October 2016 instead of 2018. A second project to complete the four-lane divided highway to the State Highway 51 junction will let out bids in 2017 instead of 2019.
We also have $32 million planned in the eight-year plan for 2022 and another $16 million planned in 2023 to complete the four-lane divided highway to a point 13.4 miles southeast of the junction of State Highway 51 East.
Now, I have also been asked about why work has not begun on the bridges on US-60. I’m told by statetransportation employees that while the bridges are rated “5” or “at risk,” that there are still many bridges in the state that are rated at or below a “4” or “structurally deficient.” For safety reasons, those structurally deficient bridges must be dealt with before the at risk bridges. There is a chance that the four bridges on US-60 could be moved up the schedule at some point, but that will depend on how long it takes to get the work on structurally deficient bridges in the state first.
During our public meetings, the public sentiment was to avoid closing the roads during these bridge projects. They would be cheaper and faster with closed roads, but this would create great inconveniences during theproject period.
Transportation officials and employees are working incredibly hard to get our transportation infrastructure up-to-date. Unfortunately, they are contending with having to work through decades of neglect prior to this last decade. On top of that, we have the weather that Oklahoma is known for, which creates delays. I hope everyone can be patient as these projects continue to progress.
As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted at (405) 557-7407.