Road construction

On April 2, Norman voters will consider a $72 million, 19 project transportation bond that would fund a variety of projects throughout the city.

If passed, the bond would not result in a property tax increase, and would allow the city to potentially gain access to $67 million in federal transportation dollars to assist in funding the projects. City Engineer Scott Sturtz described the bond as the next step in the city’s efforts to improve corridors and widen streets to both alleviate current congestion and prepare for expected growth.

“There are five special corridor/streetscape projects [in the bond], where we intend to go in and do something unique with that corridor. For instance, Lindsey Street between Elm and Pickard, we want to go in there and make it a better corridor for different modes of traffic,” Sturtz said. “Then we do have your more traditional capacity projects, but even with those we always want to do a complete street with the needs of pedestrians, bicycles and buses in mind, as well as ensure they’re ADA compliant.”

Sturtz noted the Norman is working to complete an outer loop of sorts, a common feature in large U.S. cities, comprised of 36th Avenue in the west, Tecumseh Road to the north, 24th Avenue to the east and Highway 9 in the south. Two projects, the widening of 24th Avenue NE from Rock Creek to Tecumseh and widening Tecumseh from 12th Avenue NE and 24th Avenue NE.

The bond projects were determined by city staff with input from a 45-member resident committee and the city council based on the city’s 2014 Comprehensive Transportation Plan, Sturtz said. Projects were prioritized based on their priority rating based on the transportation plan and the likelihood the city could secure federal funding for the project.

Federal dollars are distributed to area cities by the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments (ACOG) every year. The City of Norman is typically competitive for that money, Sturtz said, at least in part because of the Norman’s long term transportation planning.

“We all apply, then it’s ranked and scored, and the money is awarded based on those scores,” he said, noting the last city transportation bond was passed in 2012. “We’re always planning ahead. We don’t apply for funding until we know a project is ready. The fact that the city has these bond projects in place, so we have the funding for our portion of the project ready to go, that makes us very competitive.”

The conversion of Gray Street from one-way to two-way is one of the most widely discussed, Sturtz said. For years, the city and community have talked about converting both Main Street and Gray Street downtown to two-way. The Main Street conversion has been shelved, at least for now.

James Garner Avenue will be connected to Flood in the near future, a project approved by voters in Norman Forward. That means the Gray/James Garner intersection will become busier, and Sturtz said providing drivers with the ability to go east on Gray by converting it to two-way should reduce congestion, according to the city’s models.

“We’ve projected the impact of that on traffic, and we want to see what impact [the James Garner project] will have on Main Street,” he said. “Based on the traffic and what’s going on on Gray now, we believe this can help alleviate any congestion on Main Street. Also, part of that project is a streetscape project to help enhance our entire downtown district.”

Caleb Slinkard was hired as the editor of the Norman Transcript in August of 2015. He is a graduate of Texas A&M University-Commerce and previously was in charge of several newspapers in northeast Texas.

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