Aug 062011

Officials sought public input for how to improve State Highway 66 from Post Road east to the Oklahoma/Lincoln county line near Arcadia.

Craig Moody, Oklahoma Department of Transportation public involvement specialist, told the capacity crowd at the Arcadia Community Center that the meeting was designed to answer questions about the proposed project and get public feedback.

“This is not set in stone,” Moody said. “This is something we are still looking at and discussing. We have not created any design plans. We are listening to you.”

Moody told the audience that traffic has been increasing steadily on State Highway 66 and road safety was a growing concern.

He said the projects would be divided into two sections — a west project and an east project. Upon completion the highway would be able to carry a heavier traffic load and improve traffic safety.

Moody said the proposed west project includes widening a 1.6 mile section of S.H. 66 to four lanes from Post Road east to the Coffee Creek bridge. The $7.2 million project is expected to start construction in 2015.

Moody said the current daily traffic count for the west project is 7,500 vehicles per day. With the proposed improvements that count would rise to 10,000 vehicles per day.

“We feel confident that we could construct that project through traffic,” Moody said. ‘We wouldn’t have to close the road.”

Moody said the east project includes resurfacing a 6-mile stretch of S.H. 66 from the Soldier Creek bridge east to the Oklahoma/Lincoln county line and adding 8-foot shoulders along that stretch of roadway.

Estimated cost for the east project is $18.7 million and construction is expected to start in 2016. Current daily traffic count for the east project is 4,200 vehicles per day. With the proposed improvements that count is estimated to rise to 6,700 vehicles per day.

“The majority of this section of road is two-lane with no shoulders,” Moody said. “This is a concern for us.”

Moody said ODOT would have to conduct an environmental study and conduct a right-of-way and utility relocation plan before any construction could start. Funding for the road projects would be a combination of federal and state money.

Moody added that none of the proposed road projects would go through Arcadia.

“We are not making any improvements through Arcadia at this time,” Moody said. “What is there now is how it’s going to be.”

Several audience members questioned Moody about the need for a four-lane section on the historic Route 66 highway that runs through Arcadia.

One of the most vocal critics of the four-lane project was Arcadia Mayor Marilyn Murrell.

“I think we ought to be able to reach a compromise,” she said. “Fix our bridges and give us some shoulders and don’t turn any more of Route 66 into a four-lane period. We want to preserve our Route 66.”

U.S. Route 66 was a highway within the U.S. highway system. One of the original U.S. highways, Route 66 was established on Nov. 11, 1926.

The highway, which became one of the most famous roads in America, originally ran from Chicago through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California, before ending in Los Angeles, covering a total of 2,448 miles.

Route 66 served as a major path for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, and it supported the economies of the communities through which the road passed.

U.S. 66 was officially removed from the U.S. highway system on June 27, 1985, after it was decided the route was no longer relevant and had been replaced by the Interstate Highway System.

Moody said he understood the concerns of residents and assured them that their comments would be taken into consideration when designing the projects.

“This particular project is special,” Moody said. “You have four cities with Oklahoma City, Edmond, Luther and Arcadia involved. It’s a historic route. It’s Route 66. In 2005 Oklahoma recognized Route 66 as a state scenic byway and in 2009 it was designated a national scenic byway.”

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