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Tear it up

Project 180 improvements enter a new phase, and with that comes new road closures. But, construction will be more city friendly than it has been, officials promise.

Tim Farley October 23rd, 2013

Downtown Oklahoma City streets are about to be ripped apart again, but fortunately for motorists and pedestrians, lessons were learned from the last round of road construction.

The work centers on a new portion of Project 180 streetscape projects that will begin Oct. 24 and focus on a two-block area, as opposed to numerous street closings and detours that occurred with the initial phase in 2010 and 2011.

Specifically, crews will begin work on Dean A. McGee Avenue extending from Robinson to Broadway avenues, on Robinson Avenue from McGee to Park Avenue and the intersection of Robinson and McGee avenues.

“These will be much smaller work zones to reduce the inconvenience,” Eric Wenger, OKC’s Public Works Director, said. “We will limit the demolition and reconstruction to two to three blocks at a given time.”

Project 180 is a $176 million redesign of downtown streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas to improve appearance and make the area more pedestrian-friendly, city officials said.

Multiple funding sources have been used, including $40 million in general obligation bonds, $11 million from the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust and $125 million from a Tax Increment Financing district created with the construction of the Devon Tower. The cost of the current project is $6.8 million.

Sidewalks in the construction zones will remain open, and pedestrians will be protected by concrete barriers as street repairs get underway, Wenger said.

“Once the street work is completed, then the crews will work on the sidewalks, but they won’t be done at the same time,” he said. “This will be more challenging to do detours and more challenging for pedestrians, but construction is always difficult no matter when you do it.”

In addition, crews will work around major downtown events as they occur, Wenger said.

As a prelude to the new construction, city officials will have a public meeting 6 p.m. Oct. 23 at City Hall, 200 N. Walker Ave., to inform downtown workers, business owners and other citizens about the work.

City officials hope the McGee-Robinson intersection will be fully open and operational by next spring, followed by the Kerr/Robinson intersection to east-west traffic next summer. All work should be finished by spring 2015, Wenger said.

Two more rounds of downtown road work have not been bid but are projected to be complete by the summer of 2016. Some of that work will include E.K. Gaylord Boulevard from Main Street to Reno Ave.

New opportunities
In the last three years, the city has completed five stages of Project 180, including work on East Main Street, North Walker Avenue, Sheridan, North Robinson, North Harvey and NW Fifth Street.

The improvements, Wenger said, allow downtown workers and pedestrians a chance to enjoy new landscaping and streetscapes.

“It’s very common now to see people walking downtown, people running downtown and eating lunch in the streetscape areas. We’re seeing a lot more activity because of the convenience” created by the projects, Wenger said.

“Those things didn’t happen before Project 180, but now that the beautification and walkability exists, it gives people the opportunity to do that,” he said.

The previous projects covered 19,426 linear feet at a cost of $48.2 million, according to figures provided by public works spokeswoman Shannon Cox.

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