A panel of experts on roundabouts and urban boulevards will be gathered for a town hall meeting tonight that will be hosted by council members Ed Shadid and Meg Salyer.
The debate at this point is about what is more important – enabling traffic to move into downtown from the west at high volume and high speed by building an elevated roadway from Western Avenue to just short of Walker Avenue, or whether to build it at grade in a manner that engineers have indicated will slow down traffic and won’t be able to handle as many cars as an elevated road.
ODOT’s raised boulevard plan is seen by critics as sure way to kill redevelopment of west downtown, which was blighted by the construction of the original I-40 Crosstown Expressway. These critics include council members Shadid, Salyer, Pat Ryan, Pete White and David Greenwell, several area property owners and Friends for a Better Boulevard, which lists more than 500 followers on Facebook.
As these discussions continue, keep in mind, the boulevard will be owned and maintained by the city. Oklahoma Department of Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley has promised repeatedly his agency will not build a boulevard the city doesn’t want. ODOT engineers also have indicated repeatedly they will only recognize a directive from the city that comes from City Manager Jim Couch, Assistant City Manager Dennis Clowers or City Engineer Eric Wenger – all three of whom are also engineers. Wenger and Clowers answer to Couch. Couch answers to the city council.
Ridley has indicated that unless he receives new instructions from the city, ODOT engineers are committed to finishing the boulevard in 2014.