Question Raised About I-44 Widening

Wednesday, May 27th 2009, 9:18 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- A News On 6 viewer raises a good question about potential traffic nightmare on a busy stretch of Tulsa highway.  Jeff asked when ODOT plans to widen I-44 near the Best Buy on Darlington.

The stretch of I-44 near Darlington is notorious for backups.  ODOT says it will work to ease congestion in the area, but it won't start for another two years.

Rush hour on I-44 is one of the reasons ODOT decided to widen the highway.  After dozens of homes and businesses were moved to make way, ground was broken on the $330 million project in January.      

Work is expected to be completed in 2012, and I-44 will expand from four to six lanes from Riverside to Yale.  But, the highway will still be four lanes starting at a stretch near Darlington, and that could create a bottleneck.

"At that time it'd been much too large of a project to do all at one time.  Again, it was just a sequencing issue more than anything," said ODOT engineer Paul Green.

ODOT engineers say work on phase two near Darlington is scheduled to start in 2011, but may begin sooner if the agency can secure more stimulus money.

"With some of the funding holes that were created with the stimulus money, we're looking for opportunities to advance that project," said ODOT engineer Paul Green.

"We're just waiting, and pulling for the best, and as quickly as possible," said Principal Mortgage Group's Cass Fahler.

Cass Fahler's mortgage business sits atop a hill overlooking I-44 and Darlington.  He says the location is great, but all the traffic is a headache.  He had hoped congestion would be cleared during phase one of the widening, but says he'll wait patiently for phase two.

"We take the good with the bad. We're just glad for the expansion, so the sooner the better," said Principal Mortgage Group's Cass Fahler.

When all is said and done, ODOT says the widening will be the most expensive project it has ever bid out.