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I-235 highway and bridge project completed ahead of schedule

Highway contractors were finishing work last week on a nearly two-year project to widen I-235 between NW 36 Street and NW 50 Street, making life easier for commuters just in time for the winter holidays. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN]

Highway contractors were finishing work last week on a nearly two-year project to widen I-235 between NW 36 Street and NW 50 Street, making life easier for commuters just in time for the winter holidays. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN]

For Edmond commuters, here's a post-Halloween treat.

The $88 million project to widen Interstate 235 to six through lanes and two auxiliary lanes from NW 36 Street to just north of NW 50 Street in Oklahoma City has been completed ahead of schedule and is now fully reopened to traffic.

Construction began in January 2017 and was projected to take about three years if traditional schedules had been followed. However, incentives were offered for early completion and Allen Contracting Inc. of Oklahoma City has completed the project in under two years.

"This is just in time for Thanksgiving, so that's great," said Terri Angier, Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokeswoman.

The $88 million project was the largest single dollar amount awarded in state transportation department history.

Transportation engineers are expected to remember the project for two things, one of which was highly visible to motorists and the other largely invisible — except during torrential downpours.

The highly visible part of the project was a 45-foot-tall BNSF railroad bridge containing nearly 4 million pounds of steel. The bridge was built alongside the interstate in two, 275-foot-long sections and then wheeled into place in January to minimize traffic disruptions.

The largely invisible part of the project involved the installation of an elaborate system of underground drainage structures and pipes primarily along the east side of the interstate.

For years the northbound lanes have been plagued by flash flooding whenever the city received torrential rains.

Only one drainage structure with a 20-inch pipe was in place to handle the runoff and it wasn't enough, Angier said.

It has been replaced with more than 30 drainage structures that include a 96-inch pipe, a 72-inch pipe and several 18- to 24-inch pipes, she said.

The improvement has been "amazing," she said.

There will be one additional brief closure of some southbound I-235 lanes between 8 p.m. Sunday and 6 a.m. Monday for general cleanup work; but after that, all lanes should remain open. Sunday night's work also will require brief, intermittent closures of the eastbound I-44 ramp onto I-235.

The speed limit soon will be raised to 60 miles per hour along that stretch of I-235, but motorists will need to continue to observe the lower speed limits until then, Angier said.

Some work will continue along the interstate — sign installation, sod laying and other tasks — so drivers need to continue to be alert, she said.

The project that has just been completed was the combined third and fourth phases of a seven-phase project that will make I-235 and the Broadway Extension at least six lanes all the way from Edmond to I-40 once work is complete.

Motorists will have a few months to enjoy the newly opened lanes before construction is expected to begin next spring on the next project, Angier said.

The next project will combine phases five and six and is expected to be even more disruptive to traffic, she said.

Highway construction crews will be widening I-235/Broadway Extension from near NW 50 Street, where the last project left off, to NW 63 Street.

The $80 million project will include a major reconfiguration of the I-44 interchange that will include 11 new bridges and flyover ramps like the ones linking Lake Hefner Parkway with the Kilpatrick Turnpike in northwest Oklahoma City, Angier said. Much of the work will be in the northeast quadrant.

I-235 and I-44 each are traveled by about 100,000 vehicles a day through the area. Construction work will be a major headache for drivers who will be encouraged to once again find alternate routes, she said.

That project is expected to begin in spring and take about two years to complete.

Once it's done, work will begin on the $20 million final phase of improvements which will involve building a ramp to link westbound I-44 traffic with the northbound Broadway Extension. I-235 turns into the Broadway Extension at I-44, Angier said.

All seven phases of improvements to the I-235 corridor are expected to be complete by 2022 at a combined cost of nearly $300 million, transportation officials said.

Gov. Mary Fallin is planning to attend the state Transportation Commission meeting 11 a.m. Monday to help recognize the most recent accomplishment.

Related Photos
<p>Traffic was moving smoothly in the southbound lanes of I-235 between NW 50 and NW 36 Streets late last week as  contractors and state transportation workers were putting the finishing touches on a nearly two-year widening project. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN]</p>

Traffic was moving smoothly in the southbound lanes of I-235 between NW 50 and NW 36 Streets late last week as  contractors and state transportation workers were putting the finishing touches on a nearly two-year widening project. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-dc68187298ee18268b4ca95a99f73e93.jpg" alt="Photo - Traffic was moving smoothly in the southbound lanes of I-235 between NW 50 and NW 36 Streets late last week as  contractors and state transportation workers were putting the finishing touches on a nearly two-year widening project. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN] " title=" Traffic was moving smoothly in the southbound lanes of I-235 between NW 50 and NW 36 Streets late last week as  contractors and state transportation workers were putting the finishing touches on a nearly two-year widening project. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN] "><figcaption> Traffic was moving smoothly in the southbound lanes of I-235 between NW 50 and NW 36 Streets late last week as  contractors and state transportation workers were putting the finishing touches on a nearly two-year widening project. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-4345b02953781715dbaf1b0d0b2bdf55.jpg" alt="Photo - Workers removed a barricade and orange barrels Friday morning as I-235 lanes were reopened to traffic, completing a nearly two-year widening project between NW 36 Street and NW 50 Street. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN] " title=" Workers removed a barricade and orange barrels Friday morning as I-235 lanes were reopened to traffic, completing a nearly two-year widening project between NW 36 Street and NW 50 Street. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN] "><figcaption> Workers removed a barricade and orange barrels Friday morning as I-235 lanes were reopened to traffic, completing a nearly two-year widening project between NW 36 Street and NW 50 Street. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-b94cf3dd6fe53fde060567ec9a348153.jpg" alt="Photo - Highway contractors were finishing work last week on a nearly two-year project to widen I-235 between NW 36 Street and NW 50 Street, making life easier for commuters just in time for the winter holidays. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN] " title=" Highway contractors were finishing work last week on a nearly two-year project to widen I-235 between NW 36 Street and NW 50 Street, making life easier for commuters just in time for the winter holidays. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN] "><figcaption> Highway contractors were finishing work last week on a nearly two-year project to widen I-235 between NW 36 Street and NW 50 Street, making life easier for commuters just in time for the winter holidays. [PHOTO BY JIM BECKEL, THE OKLAHOMAN] </figcaption></figure>
Randy Ellis

For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two... Read more ›

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