JENKS, Oklahoma - Jenks broke ground Wednesday on a road project that will help the city grow.

The Census Bureau says Jenks is the fastest growing city in the state, and the new turnpike project will only add to it.

There’s construction just down the street from the Elm and Aquarium Driver intersection where improvements are being made.

The $18 million project is focused on two things - safety for drivers and growth in Jenks.

"We've grown by about 30 percent or more in the last decade and we're going to continue that," Mayor Kelly Dunkerly said.

The city of Jenks is expanding fast, and Wednesday morning the city and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority broke ground to kick off the latest road expansion project aimed at continued growth.

The project centers where Peoria-Elm and Aquarium Drive intersect, just 200 feet away from the Creek Turnpike westbound exit ramp.

OTA Executive Director, Tim Stewart, said, "That creates huge traffic issues not only for the exiting turnpike, but the Peoria-Elm traffic trying to go north and south in Jenks. As development increases, problems with exiting and intersecting traffic is going to grow."

The project begins on the heels of the city's announcement that Simon Premium Outlets will build a mall on the south side of the turnpike just off the Arkansas River.

Dunkerly said, while the plans for the project began four years ago, they actually enticed Simon to the area.

“I think, boy were we ever right, because once we had that opportunity put together, that's when other people came and looked at the sight and really saw all the advantages of it. But it had to have access first," the mayor said.

And he hopes it doesn't stop with the outlet.

The plans provide better access to the area on both sides of the turnpike with a roundabout near the aquarium, a new underpass closer to the river and a Texas-style turnaround - all things that make the fast-growing area easier to get to.

"If you can't get there efficiently and quickly, frustrations mount; and we want to make sure we take care of that, but also in a safe way. So we're incredibly excited in Jenks, we're fortunate we're growing and we want to continue that trend," Dunkerly said.

As part of the improvements, the Turnpike Authority will be getting rid of the coin machines at the toll booth and installing new technology that won't require drivers to stop to pay the toll.

The project is expected to be completed by spring.