The town of Catoosa is upset with the state over a proposed change in highway exits. The plan is to remove the exit from westbound highway 412 to northbound Route 66, and reroute the traffic to another exit. The westbound traffic would still be able to get into town, but The News On 6â€™s Steve Berg reports it won't be easy.
Catoosa felt slighted when the turnpike moved further east a few years back. Now they feel like ODOTâ€™s plan to close an exit ramp would cut them off even more.
"No, I don't like it and the citizens don't like it," Catoosa Mayor Rita Lamkin said.
It's newly-elected mayor Rita Lamkin's first challenge. A plan to remove the exit from westbound highway 412 to highway 66, which is the primary access to town, and the site of much of their retail.
"That's basically our main street right now,â€ Lamkin said. â€œIt would cut off our main street."
Not precisely says ODOT engineer Randle White.
"You'll still be able to make that movement, you'll just have to go a little bit further to the west," White said.
Here's what ODOT has in mind. Right now westbound traffic on highway 412 exits north on highway 66, ODOT wants to take out that exit and reroute the traffic to a Texas turnaround, where the westbound traffic would join up with the eastbound traffic and then head north.
The current exit is a short, curving ramp on a part of the highway that itself is curving, and by modern-day engineering standards is dangerous. ODOT also points out that only about 300 cars a day are using the westbound exit compared with 19,000 cars a day on the eastbound exit.
"Which is considered relatively minor movement when you look at some of the other ramp movements in that area," White said.
Even so, highway 66 is so important to Catoosa that mayor Lamkin doesn't like the idea of a change, even a relatively minor one.
"You have to get off the expressway to do that Texas turnaround, and do the turnaround, get back on the expressway to come back east and then locate the exit on 66. It's more complicated than that sounds," she said. "It's going to discourage the people coming into our town that's going to hurt our tax base and hurt our growth."
ODOT says it will take a second look at the plan, and that changes are still possible. In any case, construction would not start until 2014 at the earliest.
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