By Emory Bryan, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- The road to progress on I-44 comes with both construction and demolition. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is widening I-44 from Yale to Riverside and planning a major demolition job this week.
An off-ramp to Riverside Drive is the first pavement spread during the current phase of the I-44 widening. It came only after ODOT built a huge drain underneath it for the Perryman ditch.
Further east, near Peoria, the channel is still open. It's going to be 12 feet by 36 feet wide, and a mile and half long tunnel all the way to Yorktown.
"That structure needs to be in place before we can widen the highway because it will collect more water since it will be bigger, there has to be somewhere for that water to go, so that has to be constructed first," said ODOT Project Manager Matt Casillas.
Good weather has helped keep the project moving, but there's three more years ahead.
It's taking I-44 from four to six lanes with new interchanges planned at Harvard, Peoria and Lewis.
While much of the right of way has been cleared, ODOT is still tearing down buildings, like a tire store near Lewis and it still has 30 other buildings in the path of the wider highway.
"We do still have several commercial structures that need to come down, there is a seven story building at Lewis and I-44 that's most visible for people on the highway, but the Victory Bible Institute is an iconic structure for midtown and it will be quite a change in the profile as people drive by I-44," said ODOT Project Manager Matt Casillas.
Workers are inside the VBI building, gutting it before it's demolished later this week. By taking out the walls before it's torn down, dust will be less likely to create problems for traffic on the highway.
Once the building comes down, the next major milestone on I-44 is the start of the Harvard interchange, late this fall.