Four lanes and a restored bridge, that's what is on the road for the Highway 9 corridor above Little River.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation is administering the project by Lake Thunderbird near 156th East Ave, which began Sept. 10 with expected completion in late August. The construction project goes toward widening the corridor to four lanes, adding shoulders, turn lanes and restoring and widening the bridge over Little River.
Cody Boyd, public information officer for ODOT, said construction is finishing the railing on the west side of the bridge. When the site opens, he said, it will be striped for two lanes, but when the east and west side are widened to four lanes they will be restriped.
During construction the bridge has been kept open for traffic with one lane in each direction. Boyd said when the bridge opens it will still be one lane in each direction until more of the widening projects are completed.
Boyd said the project is the third of several phases to widen the lanes to four and add shoulders on Highway 9's corridor from Tecumseh to 143rd Street. This specific phase is completed by Haskell Lemon Construction and costs $5.3 million, with $4.3 million funded federally and $1 million funded by the state.
"This is just another phase in the ongoing improvement of that entire State Highway 9 corridor between Norman and Tecumseh to get it widened to four lanes," Boyd said. "The bridge over Little River needed to be replaced and it was reconstructed to be wide enough to accommodate four lanes of traffic with shoulders as well."
Scott Sturtz, Norman city engineer, said widening the road to four lanes will increase safety because it will cause less congestion and drivers will be able to get around easier. He said he hasn't received any feedback from Norman residents on the project, but he thinks this will benefit the overall safety of the Highway 9 corridor.
The phased construction for Highway 9 stemmed from traffic growing over the years and Norman looking to expand the corridor to accommodate more traffic. Boyd said the goal is to make the intersections safer with four lanes, turn lanes, wide shoulders and restore and replace bridges on the corridor.
"We are replacing bridges that are very old and have served us well in their life, but it's time for them be replaced with something modern that can stand up for the next 80 or 90 years," he said.
ODOT has numerous phases scheduled in their eight-year plan, Boyd said, and phases four and five are scheduled for 2022 and 2025. In 2022 the construction will run from 72nd to 108th, and from 108th to 156th in 2025.
These phases will approximately widen and restore the bridge on the west side, he said, but construction isn't scheduled for the east side of the bridge, which would be 156th to 193rd. However, he said ODOT does have the right of way acquisition and utility relocation scheduled for that segment in 2023.
"People that drive it everyday know they have a narrow two lane highway that carries a lot of traffic everyday," Boyd said. "So, getting that expanded to four lanes with shoulders and turn lanes is just a major safety improvement, and can accommodate current growth and future growth as well along that whole corridor."
The project was originally slated for completion in March, he said, but due to weather events last October and heavy rain in May and June the contractor was granted a 90 day extension. There are also a few phases in Potawatomi County, he said, to get all the way to Tecumseh with more widening on Highway 9.
Boyd said ODOT appreciates the resident's patience with all of the work zones, and asks drivers continue to be patient, slow down and observe the signs, watch for workers and equipment, stay off their phones and give the work zone their full attention.