BY TIFFANY MARTINEZ
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) held its third public forum regarding the proposed construction of a controlled-access four-lane divided western bypass, which will be built through Chickasha, on July 24. The proposed bypass will extend from the curve north of the US-81/SH 19 West junction to the US-81/US 62 intersection.
The “US-81 ‘Come & Go’ Open House” at the Canadian Valley Technology Center Seminar was an informal three-hour event meant to gain feedback and answer questions from Chickasha residents, as well as communicate changes that have been made to the alignment alternatives since March 14.
According to ODOT Media Relations Official Brenda Perry, the purpose of the project, which was initially recommended in 2007, is to reduce travel time and congestion for Chickasha through-traffic, and improve safety along US-81 through the Chickasha central business district.
At the March 14 forum, three alignment alternatives were up for consideration. Since then, a preferred alternative has been chosen that would provide interchange locations at County Club Road, Grand Avenue and Iowa Avenue.
“There’s quite a bit of history with this project,” Perry said, explaining that engineers and directors have taken the public’s opinions into deep consideration while determining the preferred route. “From here we will have one more public hearing and that will be held when we actually make final decisions.”
Opportunities found in a recent socioeconomic study found that the bypass would increase traffic and business through Chickasha, revitalize the existence of the US-81 corridor, improve safety aspects and provide economic development at interchanges.
An environmental assessment is in the works, which will help to lead the construction team to final decisions concerning the bypass, but Perry said public opinion is still extremely vital.
“This project involves federal dollars and that is why we have this process, it is a requirement,” Perry said.
An estimated 80 to 200 people have attended each forum held thus far, she said.
ODOT Division Seven Engineer Bob Rose is overseeing the bypass project, which will take eight to 10 years to complete. The estimated total cost of construction at this time is $170 million.
“The majority of construction will be funded by federal dollars, while maintenance will be covered by state dollars,” Perry said. “We are really in the preliminary stages right now though, construction costs will fluctuate as we near building, they usually go up.”
The next public forum is yet to be announced. Comments on the project should be submitted to ODOT no later than Aug. 9, at odot.org/meetings/other.php.