The widening of I-44 from Yale to the Arkansas River bridge

Tuesday, January 13th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

An alternative to shutting down a strip club that has yet to open, may come in the form of a highway project that's still on the drawing board.

News on 6 reporter Emory Bryan says the traffic never stops on I-44. It's a dinosaur of highway design with narrow bridges through much of central Tulsa.

The state has the money to start another widening project on I-44, from Yale to the Arkansas River, but there's not enough money to finish it. The uncertainty over the funding, the timing and the exact path has stopped most development along the highway - the most noticeable case - that of the Camelot Hotel.

It didn't change the plans for a new strip club. But it's so close to the on ramp - it might one day be torn down to make room for the road. Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune wants that day to be sooner than later. The mayor’s office says "that property may be part of the I-44 widening project. We're looking into expediting that."

Monday night - the mayor and 2 city councilors said new tougher rules on sex clubs are in the works - but they may come too late to stop this one. Tulsa city councilor Randy Sullivan: “We've looked at just about every way to stop this business from going in.”

The highway project may accomplish what zoning did not - but probably not anytime soon. Even though the I-44 widening project may kick off again next year, it will be several years at least before anything happens at 51st at Harvard.

The state buys all the right of way generally and they have no plans to do that before 2008. The narrow lanes of I-44 leave drivers no room for error - and the lack of fences on the sides encourage people to try and walk across.

Both problems will be fixed when the state widens the road, but what the city considers another problem will likely be a highway fixture for some time. The state has the money to buy some land along I-44, but it doesn't have a stake in getting rid of the strip club. City leaders want to get rid of the club - but don't have the money to buy the property - and face legal questions if that business was singled out.

The federal government could solve both problems by widening the road - but that's something that's been in the plans for decades.