As a reporter, I’ve gotten accustomed to themes and talking points given by interviewees. There’s nothing wrong with them – but when they are done, it’s often to the point that it’s hard to miss.
Such a theme recurred over and over again in my interview this last week with Gary Evans, deputy director at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. Promises were made. Promises were made in 1998. Residents were promised a boulevard, elevated until it got to Walker Avenue, would be built in place of the old Interstate 40. Promises were made it would be done within the old highway’s alignment. Residents have been promised it would be done by 2014.
Promises were made …. in 1998 ….
So what was it like in downtown Oklahoma City in 1998? I was there. And I have photos.
In 1998 Ron Norick was finishing his final term as mayor. Bill Clinton was president and he grabbed headlines that year when he announced he foresaw budget surpluses totaling $1.1 trillion over the next decade, including a surplus of $216 billion in 2007. The country was not at war. Students at Stanford started up an obscure web browser they called “Google.” Longtime Midsouth Wrestling fans mourned the loss of Junkyard Dog. Shakespeare in Love somehow won top honors at the Academy Awards. There was no Twitter, no Facebook and no OKC Talk. Downtown housing consisted of a choice between Regency Tower, Sycamore Square or the Garage Lofts. That’s it.
In 1998 I was covering the wave of changes about to sweep downtown. I was covering the debate over the new Interstate 40 and where it should be located. I covered the meeting where the route was chosen and a boulevard was first discussed.
ODOT wants you to know promises were made in 1998. I have dutifully reported just that to you. With context.