By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6
CATOOSA, OK -- One of Green Country's most notorious intersections is getting a makeover. The Department of Transportation began construction Saturday on the I-44/193rd E. Avenue interchange - a Catoosa intersection that is not so affectionately known as "Dysfunction Junction."
Though drivers may find Dysfunction Junction a pain in the exhaust pipe, work is underway on a two-year project that engineers say will bring an end to the nickname.
The road leads to both the Cherokee Casino - soon to be the Hard Rock Casino - and the Port of Catoosa. Drivers have to sometimes wait through four or five lights to get through the intersection.
"It's not good early in the morning, I can tell you that," one driver said.
The area has emerged as one of Green Country's biggest "choke points."
"The bridge has just outlived its usefulness," said Paul Green, an engineer with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
A $45 million makeover is breathing new life into the area. Workers are currently re-paving I-44, then
the crumbling bridge will be broken apart and replaced.
"It's aged, and it's also too small for the traffic to flow underneath it, so it needs to be a lot longer bridge," Green said.
The project was originally slated for next summer, but a big donation from the Cherokee Nation moved up the start date.
"The Cherokees donated $11 million in right-of-way and construction costs," said ODOT engineer Paul Green.
The process of turning Dysfunction Junction into just a junction will take almost two years. Plans call for a new eastbound bridge to be built, and all traffic will be shifted there once it is complete. Then the original bridge will be expanded to eight lanes. In phase four, 193rd East Avenue will be widened from two to four lanes.
ODOT engineers say there will be delays in trying to rebuild the problem area. But if you're behind the wheel, at least know that the end of dysfunction is in sight.
Most lane closures will take place at night and on weekends, according to ODOT. Two lanes of I-44 and two lanes of 193rd East Avenue north of the bridge will remain open on weekdays from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Dysfunction Junction project joins two other major ODOT projects already under way. One is the $75 million Inner Dispersal Loop improvements in Tulsa - the most expensive road project in ODOT history. The other project is on I-44 near the Arkansas River where ODOT is building an underground drainage ditch that will stretch for over a mile.