By Emory Bryan, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is overseeing construction of a massive drainage ditch that is part of the I-44 widening project in Tulsa.
Tulsa's "big dig" is almost unseen by most people who can't get near the construction zone.
The workers at the bottom of the Perryman Ditch project, alongside I-44 near Peoria, do their jobs 30 feet below the surface, protected by massive metal walls held up with thick braces.
The trench has plenty of room for equipment to be dropped to the bottom. Workers lay down gravel, then steel, then pump in concrete for the floor. ODOT reports it's the largest box culvert ever built in Oklahoma.
"We can build the bottom and pour it with concrete, then the walls, then top, so construction is kind of staggered. And on a good day, we can pour one of each of those three sections," said Matt Casillas, ODOT Project Manager.
The $42 million culvert is just part of the $360 million I-44 widening project.
The culvert will extend east to Yorktown, while the widening job will go all the way to Yale.
Already, holes are being dug east of Peoria where the ditch will connect to what's done on the west side down to the river.
"We've almost got a half mile of the box actually constructed. We are approaching Peoria. It will be within the next month or two that we'll need to make a crossing of Peoria itself and that will mean a closure of Peoria underneath I-44," said Matt Casillas.
The Perryman Ditch will be underneath part of I-44, which is why it's built to withstand both a flash flood and heavy traffic loads.
Ten feet of dirt covers the finished box, which will drain away water that otherwise can flood neighborhoods along the highway.
ODOT says the massive job is ahead of the planned two year long construction schedule.