It means moving a mountain, but the result should be a safer and much wider intersection on a busy stretch of road. The work started 2 months ago at 71st and US highway 75 and it's about to hit a milestone.
News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says that milestone is the opening of a new detour that will divert all traffic off highway 75, on the west side, around the 71st Street intersection.
It will happen within two weeks. Heavy machinery is on every side of the 71st Street interchange of US highway 75. On 71st Street west, graders cut down the road and smooth it out. On the south - it's a job to dig out rock and haul it off. Soon - the work moves from the sidelines to the middle of the road.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation division engineer Gary Evans: "It will provide a 5 lane bridge over the highway, and allow for the future expansion of highway 75 so it's a complete redesign of the interchange."
ODOT's work on the 71st Street bridge is the first step of the plan to widen Highway 75 from 41st to 151st. Rebuilding the interchange will cost $15.5-million and take 10 more months. The new intersection will be larger and much lower, to make it safer for drivers on 71st Street. The whole intersection will be 15 to 18 feet lower.
In fact the new bridge will be lower than the existing road. "This interchange just happens to sit on the peak of a hill and we're going to flatten it out and make it safer for the public." That's why there is so much earth work going on. First the contractor had to build a road to carry traffic around the intersection - and once the detour opens - they'll cut down the 71st Street hill.
Since it's already a construction zone - Tulsa Police are issuing tickets to slow down traffic - and the fines are double the regular price. Two of the ramps for 71st Street are already closed. The other two will close around the first of May.
While it's blocked entirely - about 6 months, drivers should use 81st Street to get over the 71st Street river bridge.