NORMAN — Reconstruction of Interstate 35 through central Oklahoma has been ongoing since the late 1970s. Longtime commuters will remember a low-water crossing over the North Canadian river while the bridge was reconstructed.
In 2008, the project began working its way through Norman. Main Street reconstruction began earlier this year. How much longer until it crosses the Canadian River?
“We’re in this for the long haul,” said Shawn O’Leary, Norman public works director. “I’d say five more years at least. It’s been painful for many.”
After the Main Street overpass is reconstructed, contractors will move south to the State Highway 9 interchange. After that, they’ll move back north to Lindsey Street to take down and rebuild that overpass.
Each interchange will have a theme. Main Street will highlight the land run of 1889 that settled Norman, Lindsey will have a University of Oklahoma theme, and Highway 9 will have a Lake Thunderbird theme.
Meanwhile, interstate travelers should see the Canadian River bridge complete by October. At its widest point, the 10 lanes will be the biggest in the Oklahoma interstate system.
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Nearby, the widening of State Highway 9 between 24th Avenue Southeast and 48th Avenue Southeast will begin soon. That will be followed by eventual four-laning east to Norman’s city limits.
That will come before anticipated development along the corridor. It also includes a separate bicycle lane for part of the area. Norman’s Saxon Park at Highway 9 and 36th Avenue Southeast finally will see some activity. A grant to install paths in the donated lane will be built in coming months.
Besides the interstate construction, students coming back to Norman this fall will face some changes in their environment. The major one will be the old coin-only parking meters on Campus Corner, which will be changed to Smart Parking meters that accept credit and debit cards.
The concept has been employed in the city’s new parking lot on Gray Street between Peters Avenue and Crawford Avenue. That formerly free parking lot changed over to pay spaces earlier this year. Occupancy went from 90 percent to about 40 percent.
City public works officials say the new meters shoud be installed in August on Campus Corner. Students also will see new welcome banners flying throughout the city.
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Favorite things to do in Norman in the summer? That was the ice-breaker question Downtowners President Stephen Koranda posed to its membership earlier this month. Some answers:
The patio at The Mont restaurant. Early morning bicycle rides through campus. (It’s Norman’s version of Central Park). Summer breeze concerts at Lions Park. Second Friday arts nights downtown. Biscuits and gravy at The Diner on weekend mornings.
Campus Corner. Youth baseball and softball at Griffin Park and Reaves Park. Less traffic in the city. Slower time where people can actually take time to visit each other.
Here are some other suggestions: (Sorry if they involve food). Lunch at Sooner Dairy Lunch on Main Street. Sunset and late-night dining outside at the Clear Bay Cafe on Lake Thunderbird. Gelato at Dolce Gelato in Robinson Crossing.