Ahead of an announcement by Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to roll out a 15-year plan to expand the state’s toll roads, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation [ODOT] bought several parcels in Cleveland County last year for other projects.
Property tax records reveal ODOT purchased several parcels within feet or less than three miles of a new turnpike planned along Indian Hills Road and east of Lake Thunderbird. One property was purchased in April 2020, but most were acquired between June and August 2021.
The turnpike authority began discussing the current proposed routes last summer, but a spokeswoman for the turnpike authority and state transportation department said these purchases were unrelated.
Jessica Brown, spokeswoman for both ODOT and the turnpike authority said in an email to the newspaper that the projects are part of ongoing plans to improve interchanges and roadways.
“These properties in Cleveland County were all acquired by ODOT for upcoming highway projects in the department’s Eight-Year Construction Work Plan, not the proposed turnpike projects,” she said in a statement.
ODOT purchased 408 S. Janeway Avenue from Moore Church of the Nazarene in April 2020. The land is west of Interstate 35 and three miles north of Indian Hills Road. It purchased 14 acres of land north of West Indian Hills Road, which borders the east side of I-35 Interstate Drive from Indian Hills Investment Group in June 2021, followed by several lots between 5737 and 5797 York Drive in July and August from various owners.
Land along East Imhoff Road, also known as State Highway 9, and 108th Avenue Southeast, sold to ODOT in July. The land is 2.2 miles east of 84th Street and the proposed southeast extension of the turnpike.
Janeway Avenue is planned for “reconstruction of the SH-37/S. 4th St. bridge over an unnamed creek just east of Janeway Ave. [which is] scheduled to go to bid in 2022,” Brown said.
York and Interstate Drive properties is planned for a “reconstruction of the I-35 interchange at Indian Hills Rd. in Norman [which is] scheduled to go to bid in 2024.”
“Parcels were also purchased on the other corners of the interchange,” she said.
Properties purchased at Imhoff Rd. (SH-9) at 108th Ave is part of “ongoing reconstruction and widening of SH-9 to four lanes between 72nd Ave. and 108th Ave.,” she said.
While the projects are not officially related to the turnpike authority, other entities sometimes later purchase or assume control of land ODOT has acquired, Brown said.
“ODOT and OTA do work together closely and turnpike projects frequently intersect right-of-way purchased by ODOT, especially at a turnpike crossing of or an interchange with a state highway, U.S. highway or interstate maintained by ODOT,” Brown said. “In those instances, agreements are reached on a case-by-case basis for OTA to purchase some of the right-of-way from ODOT or for OTA to offset some of ODOT’s construction costs.”
There is a history of ODOT purchased land that eventually goes to the OTA or other entities, Brown noted.
“For example, much of the right-of-way for the John Kilpatrick Turnpike was purchased by ODOT in anticipation of a future northern loop around Oklahoma City, which was eventually constructed in the 1990s and 2000s by OTA since the state never had the resources for such a project. The west leg of the Gilcrease Expressway, currently under construction by OTA in west Tulsa, makes use of right-of-way that was mostly purchased by the City of Tulsa.”
Purchase amounts for the land did not appear on the Cleveland County Assessor’s website.
The county assessor, Doug Warr said that is likely because the state agency is tax exempt. Buyers pay a tax fee — a document stamp — that shows the purchase amount online. But because the agency is tax exempt, the amount was not available.
No additional documents stating the purchase price were on file at the Cleveland County courthouse due to the absence of a mortgage.
The Transcript has requested the amount of purchases from the OTA.