Progress As Promised Is Forcing Some Tulsa Families From Their Homes

Tuesday, November 28th 2006, 9:58 am
By: News On 6

There's little doubt that I-44 in Tulsa needs to be wider. It's one of the most dangerous roads in the state. But to get the room they need, that means some people will be moving on.

The first phase will involve bulldozing about 53 properties between Riverside and Peoria in Tulsa.

News on 6 reporter Steve Berg says it is not hard to see why. The neighborhood is very close to the highway. That includes the home of Joseph McRuiz.

Joseph McRuiz, his wife and his 6 children moved into their house 53 years ago, because they needed more space. "In fact, I added another bathroom after I bought the property." Steve Berg: "Because you had 6 kids." Joseph McRuiz: "Right."

His wife has passed away, and his children have moved on, but the house is still full of his memories. "We used to play badminton in the backyard, and the kids used to climb that tree when it was smaller. And we used to throw snowballs at each other in the front yard. And I used to have a garden. That was my hobby, so that will all be gone."

McRuiz got a certified letter last month saying that his property is in the proposed right of way for the I-44 expansion. There's no deadline mentioned about moving, although state officials have said they would like to have all offers presented to homeowners by April of next year, with two more phases to the east to Yale after that.

McRuiz says an appraiser has already been out to the house and that he should have a value amount in a couple of weeks. And then he'll start looking for a new place, preferably away from the highway. And someplace where his 6 kids and 7 grandkids can visit. "I have to have the same floor space or more."

Thanks to him though, and the other people who are moving, his fellow citizens will finally have a wider and safer road. The state Department of Transportation says this stretch of I-44 has three times the rate of fatal accidents as other Oklahoma roads.