After years of waiting, a stretch of Riverside Drive that has been closed since 2015 reopened Monday morning, hours ahead of schedule.
Riverside from about 21st to 31st was supposed to re-open at 6:00 a.m., but overnight Mayor G.T. Bynum posted a Facebook video showing it opened just before 1 a.m.
“As of 12:44 AM, the new Riverside Drive is officially OPEN! Phil Lakin, Jeff Stava, Tony Moore and I waited up to be the first to drive down it. It is fantastic,” the mayor wrote.
Riverside was closed for over three years while Gathering Place was being built, and the road is drastically different.
Riverside Drive fully back OPEN after more than 3 years! pic.twitter.com/QG6WckqQtO— Dave Davis (@DaveDavisKOTV) September 10, 2018
The old bridge and concrete sidewalk wall that made it feel so narrow are gone. It now has three bridges going over it two landscaped land bridges from Gathering Place and a pedestrian bridge for the Midland Valley trail.
The speed limit has changed, too - the city says it is now 35 miles per hour between Denver and 36th Street, with several new crosswalks.
Because of all of the changes, the City is encouraging all the drivers to pay attention as they get used to the new Riverside layout.
Monday, Bynum held a news conference with Senator Jim Inhofe, Gathering Place Executive Director Jeff Stava and others to discuss the reopening of the road.
"I've got 20 kids and grandkids. All but six of them live within walking distance from my house. So, they're all right here," said Senator Jim Inhofe.
"This stretch of Riverside Drive used to be a pleasant stretch of road where you might slow down to take a look if the river happened to have water in it. As Tulsans will see, the new Riverside Drive is now one of the most iconic streets in our city, transporting people through the majesty of Gathering Place and River Parks. This is an exciting time for Tulsa," Bynum said.
The smoke has barely settled from opening day and the city is moving to the next phases of the projects surrounding Gathering Place.
The mayor said the city is still looking for private donors to help put finishing touches on the new pedestrian bridge that will connect the park to the west side of the River.
He said the bridge is fully funded and construction will start next year. There's also a city lake in the works.
"By creating this lake, we're going to make outdoor recreation on that body of water right here in the middle of our city accessible all year round," Bynum said.
The Mayor said the lake will be created from a rebuilt dam and the Arkansas River and will stretch three miles along Gathering Place all the way past downtown.
He said construction on the dam starts in about two years.
According to a news release, about $40 million in improvements were made to Riverside and nearby infrastructure, including: