Traffic delays expected at OKC's Crossroads interchange

Daily Oklahoman |

--Drivers should expect traffic snarls beginning tonight at the busy Interstate 240/Interstate 35 interchange in southeast Oklahoma City.

Construction crews will narrow eastbound I-240 traffic down to one lane between Santa Fe Avenue and I-35 from on both Monday and Tuesday nights, state transportation officials said.

Crews will reopen a second lane once the initial night work is done, but I-240's three eastbound lanes will continue be narrowed to two lanes until further notice.

In addition, the eastbound I-240 on-ramp from Shields Boulevard will permanently close at , with drivers having to use a new on-ramp from Santa Fe Avenue.

And the eastbound I-240 Service Road will be narrowed to one lane between Shields Boulevard and SE 82nd Street from until further notice.

Major traffic headaches are expected, since this is one of Oklahoma City's busiest interchanges, said Cody Boyd, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

"Obviously, if you don't need to be in the area, it would be good to avoid it," Boyd said.

Boyd said there aren't a lot of good alternative routes, however.

"At the very least, people need to allow extra time," he said.

The I-240/I-35 interchange is one of Oklahoma City's busiest. Built in the 1960s, that segment of I-240 originally was designed to carry 9,000 vehicles a day, but now carries around 106,000. That segment of I-35 was designed to accommodate 31,600 vehicles per day, but now carries about 140,000.

The new traffic disruptions are the result of construction beginning on the southwest quadrant of the interchange after funding issues initially delayed the project.

Work on the $10.6 million southwest quadrant phase will continue until the summer of 2018.

"This design cannot handle this type of traffic anymore," Boyd said. "This area has developed a lot."

Issues for drivers include the short on-ramps in the four-leaf clover interchange, which causes drivers to quickly change lanes and has caused many wrecks.

"You have that traffic mixing at a high speed and it does not work very well and there is definitely safety concerns with that," Boyd said.

Once this phase is completed, a new two-lane ramp will take traffic onto I-35 going south.

Construction during the current phase will not affect I-35 much, Boyd said, but service roads will be affected.

Kevin Howe, owner of Brookwood Automotive, said the construction is needed and hopefully boosts property values. His business is located just off the service road on Shields Boulevard.

"I am 100 percent glad that they are doing this," Howe said. "The traffic over there on I-35 is horrible."

The closure of the Shields on-ramp to I-240 will allow crews to build flyover ramps and expand the interchange during the upcoming phases of construction.

"Drivers who take this area everyday are very familiar with the backups," Boyd said.

Contractors can collect upward of $500,000 in incentives if the current construction phase is completed early, but can also be penalized the same amount if they fall behind.

This is the second out of six construction phases, which will completely reconstruct the interchange.

The next phase of construction is slated to begin in 2020 on the northwest, northeast and southeast service roads.

Future phases will begin building flyover ramps and reconstructing the I-240 bridge over I-35.

The entire project will cost more than $115 million. ODOT hopes to have it finished by 2023 or 2024, depending on funding and construction crews.

Funding issues delayed construction on the current phase of the project for several weeks. Funding cuts in future years could cause further delays in completing the project, Boyd said.

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