Interstate 44 Widening Project Underway At 51st And Lewis

Monday, October 1st 2012, 7:22 pm
By: News On 6

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation has closed Lewis Avenue at Interstate 44. The project will widen the interstate and move it farther south.

The closed signs were put in place early Monday morning. ODOT says it saved this project for last so that the Harvard and Peoria interchanges could handle the detoured traffic.

Some residents are afraid the traffic will detour through their neighborhoods.

ODOT is shutting down Lewis as it crosses over I-44. It's the last step to widen the interstate from Riverside to Yale.

"It's so needed and it's, of course, progress. We desperately need to get it done," said resident Bill Cutsinger.

Cutsinger has lived near I-44 and Lewis since the early 1970s. He's seen it all and says anytime there's a traffic issue involving the interstate, traffic finds its way to his neighborhood.

It just happened last week, he says, when there was a wreck on Peoria.

"They were cutting through here going 40 and upwards of up to 50 miles an hour. It was incredible," Cutsinger said.

Cutsinger is worried that the closing of Lewis at I-44 will bring more unwanted drivers into his neighborhood.

9/30/2012 Related Story: Tulsa's Lewis Avenue At I-44 Closed For Interstate Widening Project

"There are always people that try it," said Sergeant Rex Mann of the Tulsa Police Department. "All it does is add to the confusion, and it costs them more time to get to where they're going, to their destination point."

Tulsa Police and ODOT are telling drivers that the neighborhoods are no places to look for a short cut. ODOT says drivers should use either the Peoria or Harvard exits off I-44 or stay on 51st Street.

"Drivers just need to make sure they're following the signs, following the routes," said ODOT spokeswoman Kenna Mitchell. "You're not going to save yourself any extra time by cutting through neighborhoods; in fact, it might make it a little more dangerous with the increased traffic there."

Cutsinger says there are a lot of children in his neighborhood and he hopes drivers follow ODOT's signs. If someone does try to cut through here he has one, very important, point to make.

"And absolutely, please slow down," said area resident Bill Cutsinger.

This project costs $44 million and is expected to take 20 months, although there are incentives in place for the contractor to finish early.