MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma - The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is proposing a realignment project for Highway 69 to reroute the road around Muskogee instead of going through town.

ODOT said there have been more than 600 accidents on the stretch of Highway 69 through Muskogee in the past five years, so they want to move some of the trucking traffic out of town.

However, some local businesses rely on that traffic to get people in the door.

"It's a great location because of the traffic that comes through here," said Brandon Holdridge, who works at Stewart Martin Equipment along the highway.

"A lot of people that we get, whether it's coming through or visiting, or coming in just to look, it reminds them 'hey I need a part or I need this,'" Holdridge said.

The new multi-million-dollar project that would realign Highway 69 west of its current route through Muskogee from Summit, north to the Arkansas River.

"Some of this traffic comes through the town and stops at the business and generates tax dollars but a lot just goes straight through. Our hope is that the traffic that is just going straight through will use the alternative route," Holdridge said.

The project has been in the works since the 1960s and ODOT hopes the new route will cut down on some of the trucking traffic, and create a safer roadway for the town.

"We average about 2 1/2 accidents per week. Not all are serious but some are," Holdridge said.

Muskogee Mayor Bob Coburn believes the project will hurt business, saying "we have 600 new hotel rooms, millions of dollars in commercial development investment, all built on Highway 69 to encompass the steady stream of traffic along this highway ... It's more than just a transportation issue, it's about our community."

"It's a concern that the businesses have. It's a concern that ODOT has and that's why through the development of this we will be working with the city and the community being on our team to help put this together," he said.

ODOT said they are still in the early planning stages so they don't expect construction to start until 2025.

They are also planning to host a public meeting about the project in late 2018.

Coburn's full statement is below:

"As Mayor of Muskogee for the past five years I’ve seen the flux of new development at the crossroads of Muskogee where Highway 69 and Highway 62 intersect. This area has advanced business expansion to the Urban Renewal Area on Highway 62 due to the easy access to Highway 69 and that traffic coming from the North and the South. I am not in favor of the proposed 69 Highway Bypass. We have 600 new hotel rooms, millions of dollars in commercial development investment, including a Quik Trip which was designed for semi-truck traffic, all built on Highway 69 to encompass the steady stream of traffic along this highway. We have met with ODOT officials and state legislators, all of whom are aware of our concerns and opposition to these plans, should they develop. It’s more than just a transportation issue, it’s about our community; it’s about the neighborhoods that will be impacted; it’s about the environment, and about moving people, not just cars. We don’t want to lose the momentum that we’ve created because it could potentially impact our City in a negative way. The local impact of the proposed bypass must be considered by all interested parties."