NORMAN — A visitor to New York City once remarked: “It’ll be a nice place to visit once they get it finished.” Visitors to Norman, and even those passing by on the interstate over the next five years, may say the same thing.
It all began more than 30 years ago with the decision to widen I-35 through the Oklahoma City metro area between the two rivers. Longtime commuters will remember the “low-water” crossing of the North Canadian in the early 1980s.
It finally came to Norman’s city limits with the design and construction of the SH 77 (Flood Street) overpass in 2008, then State Highway 9 west, then the rather painless Rock Creek Road span. Robinson and Tecumseh crossings will get some aesthetic treatment later. For now, contractors will tackle Main Street, then Lindsey and State Highway 9.
Now that the Main Street interstate overpass widening and reconstruction has started, it’s time to start another project. Widening of the Canadian River bridge begins this month.
When completed — perhaps by this summer — it may well be the only 10-lane bridge in Oklahoma. The bridge widening, Highway 9 and Lindsey Street overpass reconstruction as well as the Main Street work, will look like one giant project that won’t be done until 2018.
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Norman’s public works director Shawn O’Leary told a business group Friday that the likelihood Lindsey Street will remain open during construction of the I-35 interchange is not good. That project should begin in 2014.
Unlike the Main Street overpass which is actually two bridges, Lindsey Street is one stucture. Engineers have determined that the design and a needed grade change may force them to close Lindsey during construction.
“We’re having some real issues there,” O’Leary said. “They (ODOT) have told us that it may not be possible to keep it open.”
Main Street, however, will remain open, during construction and will be six-lanes when complete. Contractors have until March of 2014 to be finished but a $15,000 per day incentive may push them ahead on the $30 million project.
“If everything goes perfect, they could be done by December,” O’Leary said.
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In the meantime, drivers who by 2018 will have endured highway widening and work on 8 bridges in 6.5 miles, should start learning to navigate a Single Point Urban Interchange (SPUI). It will be the intersection design at Main Street and Lindsey Street. One important, three-phase signal light, on top of the intersection, will control all traffic. Surprisingly, they are safer than conventional cloverleafs.
The state’s first SPUI is at I-40 and Morgan Road in Oklahoma City. The second will be on Main Street and the third on Lindsey Street. Both bridges, as well as the Highway 9 work, will have artistic themes. Main Street’s theme is the Land Run of 1889 and Lindsey Street will be the University of Oklahoma.
Main Street’s will have landscaping and a “City of Norman” welcome sign.
“This is Main Street USA,” said O’Leary. “If we are going to make an impression, this is the place to do it.”