By Emory Bryan, News On 6
TULSA, OK -- Oklahoma has the money to expand I-44 through Tulsa and it's not part of the stimulus plan.
The work is centered now at I-44 and Riverside, which is now a detour around the construction.
The state has dug into the bank of the Arkansas River and started digging a trench that will eventually stretch more than a mile to the east. It's hard to see if you're just driving by, so The News On 6 went up in SKYNEWS 6 for a better view.
Click on the featured video to see a flyover of the entire length of the project.
From high above, the scale is easier to see, where the Perryman Ditch will dump into the Arkansas River. It's the largest and most expensive drainage line ever built by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
Large track hoes are just beginning to carve out the ground to create a concrete tunnel that will take almost two years to finish.
"We're actually going in and excavating a lot of dirt to bury that structure between 20 and 30 feet underground. And if you look at it with an equivalent, that's like having 40,000 truckloads of dirt moved out here," said Kenna Mitchell, ODOT.
The tunnel will go underneath Riverside Drive, which for now detours around the work site. In 90 days, enough of the tunnel will be done so that Riverside can be rebuilt over it.
While all that work continues on the far end of I-44 at Riverside, at Lewis, there are still businesses that are in the way, some of them are still open. They'll be bought out and bulldozed to make room for the new, wider I-44.
ODOT has already cleared long stretches of land where businesses were on the south side of the highway, both east of Harvard and east of Lewis.
The ditch project is mainly on the north side of the current I-44, though as the road is widening, it will be almost on top of the tunnel.
"And from Harvard we'll come back to the Riverside and Peoria corridor to work on I-44 the widening there, and then Lewis is the last place we'll work on, but we hope to wrap it all up by late 2012," said Mitchell.
It will take about 3 months for ODOT to finish the portion at I-44 and Riverside. The ditch work will continue moving east on the north side of the highway, all the way back to Delaware Avenue.