By Craig Day, The News On 6
CATOOSA, OK -- ODOT and the Cherokee Nation officially kicked off a huge road construction project at one of the busiest interchanges in the Tulsa area.
Work is underway on what's known as dysfunction junction where I-44 and 193rd East Avenue meet in Catoosa. More than 90,000 cars travel each day on the interchange. The bridge is aging, traffic is often congested and at times it's a mess.
"The congestion has been here for a long time and it's our opportunity to help solve the problem," said Chief Chad Smith, Cherokee Nation.
The hope is that the $44 million project will take the dysfunction out of dysfunction junction. ODOT will replace the interstate bridges and widen I-44 from four to eight lanes. 193rd will be widened to six lanes.
It's expected to improve traffic flow in an area seeing rapid growth, mainly from the development of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
"It's grown at a rate that has outpaced the infrastructure, and we can see deterioration of the infrastructure has definitely impeded progress, and we're here today to change that," said David Stewart, Cherokee Nation Entertainment.
The Cherokee Nation pitched in $12 million in federal money to get the project started two years ahead of schedule.
"It means safety, economic development, efficiency, but it also means we need to be patient," said Pete Regan, Oklahoma Transportation Commissioner.
The first phase will divert eastbound traffic to a new bridge that will be built. Then the old bridge will be removed. Once eastbound is finished, crews will tackle the project westbound.
At least two lanes will remain open in each direction during peak hours, but you can expect traffic to be slowed considerably on nights and weekends.
"We can't emphasize enough people need to be safe when they are driving through the work zone. They need to put the cell phones down, not mess with the radio, not get distracted with the kids and things like that," said Paul Green, ODOT engineer.
Despite 21 months of inconveniences for drivers, engineers say in the long run, it will mean a safer and more hassle free drive.
ODOT will provide daily updates on lane closures.