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.”

Mar 042011
 

 

The afternoon air in Oklahoma City on New Year’s Day, 2008, was still crisp and cool, but with the sun shining brightly overhead it promised to warm up more as the day passed. After spending the morning at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, I was ready for some lighter hearted entertainment in the afternoon before heading out of Oklahoma and into Arkansas.

Continuing along the famed Route 66 into Arcadia, Oklahoma, there were two places I was very excited to visit. The first was a roadside restaurant, gas and convenience store called Pops, and it was anything but ordinary. The first thing that came into sight was the 66 foot tall, 4 ton white metal spiral structure of a pop bottle, complete with a straw sticking out the top. The store and restaurant was no less impressive, built with steel beams and glass, with a long stretching “canopy” that ran over the gas pumps outside, providing a shelter from inclement weather. Inside, the glass walls were lined with shelves from floor to ceiling, featuring rows and rows of different types of colorful sodas in glass bottles.

The sight of all those colors and the promise of countless interesting fizzy sodas to be had provided some serious fun. After fueling up the U-Haul and checking out the huge soda bottle landmark, I headed inside where there were all sorts of Pops souvenirs, clothing items and of course, bottles of soda. With over 500 different varieties to choose from, it took a while to settle on three mix-and-match six packs filled with all sorts of sodas. The pop was sorted by colors, red being represented by cranberry, black cherry, raspberry and fruit punch flavors to name a few. In the orange group were orange, mango, peach and tangerine. On and on it went. Choosing root beer was a feat unto itself, as the selection boasted over 100 varieties, including some with funny names, like Zuberfizz Root Beer, Jackson Hole Snake River Sarsaparilla and Judge Wapner’s Root Beer.

Choosing sodas to fill my six packs was a blast, though it was a challenge narrowing down which ones to just marvel at and which ones to actually take home. For more information on Pops, visit http://www.route66.com.

Just up the road from Pops was the Round Red Barn, another popular landmark on Route 66. Built in 1898, the barn was used for livestock as well as a place for the local townspeople to hold dances and events. It is the only true round barn in the country, and was designed this way to supposedly help withstand Oklahoma’s tornadoes. No one knows if the design actually helps ward off the twisters, but as the barn is still standing, the signs are good!

In 1988 the barn’s 60 foot diameter roof collapsed after 90 years of wear, and it took a group of local volunteers and $65,000 raised through various donations and fundraisers to rebuild the immense roof and restore the barn. As a result of these efforts, Arcadia’s Historical Society Members were given the National Preservation and Honor Award which recognized their accomplishment in preserving the barn.

The Round Red Barn is a unique centerpiece in the small town of Arcadia and is still used for various local events. It is open to the public to visit anytime and donations are welcome. For more information, you can visit www.arcadiaroundbarn.org .

Winding my way back to I-40 from the old Route 66, I was struck again at how beautiful Oklahoma was with the lush green foliage present in January and the red roads prevalent in the countryside. Crossing a bridge over Lake Eufaula heading east, I found myself laughing out loud at an exit for Lotawatah Rd. I wondered who in the world named that road and marveled at the originality and humor in the name.

Oklahoma gave way to Arkansas as I pulled into the town of Van Buren for the night, just as the sun went down on the evening. I felt truly blessed after the New Year’s Day I spent paying my respects to the memory of sad events, and then having a little fun picking 18 kinds of soda pop out of 500 offered. I was thrilled at having visited and photographed the only round red barn in the country and was happy I could officially call myself a Route 66 traveler after three full days along the old route.

Copyright 2011 The Times and Democrat