Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

March 26, 2014

Tahlequah mayor discusses road expansion

TAHLEQUAH — Jess Bryant is hoping for a little compromise when it comes to the city’s planned expansion of South Muskogee Avenue.

Several businesses on South Muskogee will lose parking spaces when street widening begins – Arby’s and McDonald’s could lose the highest number of spaces – but Bryant’s Donut Delight will likely be the most-affected business, Mayor Jason Nichols believes.

There’s already a limited number of parking spots at Bryant’s doughnut shop, and when street expansion begins, he could lose some of those if engineers can’t find a way to compromise.

Merchants impacted by the city’s street-widening project were invited to the Armory Municipal Center Tuesday night to share their concerns and ideas. Most expressed a desire to ensure their customers have easy access and places to park.

Nichols and Mike Kelly, of Kelly Engineering, promised to take a look at the suggestions of Bryant and other concerned business owners to see whether their ideas can be incorporated into the final expansion plans.

“We want you to be part of this process,” Nichols told merchants. “We want to answer any questions you have. We’ll take notes and go back to the drawing board if we have to.”

When crews begin work on the widening project, the city will actually be reclaiming existing rights-of-way.

Kelly explained to merchants that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation expanded South Muskogee from two to four lanes in 1958.

Rights-of-way were acquired, but as businesses began to build along that stretch of road, they often placed parking spaces and signs into existing rights-of-way.

Decades later, the city needs those areas to complete its street expansion. Some merchants will lose parking areas, and others will be required to relocate their signs. The city will also have to acquire rights-of-way in a few areas, Kelly said.

Nichols described the issues as “growing pains.”

The $2.6-million widening project could take five to six months once it begins – which isn’t expected for at least six months, perhaps longer.

“That doesn’t mean the road will be closed for five to six months,” Nichols said.

“This will be done in sections. I don’t know how big those sections will be; some of this will have to be determined at a later date. It might not be as free and easy and convenient as it is without construction taking place, but we have a legal obligation to make sure that you all have access to your business, even during construction.”

Kelly said the contractor hired for the job will likely begin construction on the east side of the street and work from the south to the north, but will ultimately make the decision on how to proceed with work.

Nichols said the plan calls for a 5-foot sidewalk to be installed on the east side of the street.

One portion of the expansion will make each of the four driving lanes 12 feet wide with a 14-foot center turn lane; and a second, narrower stretch is expected to have 10-foot driving lanes and a 12-foot turn lane.

Some merchants expressed a desire to increase pedestrian safety along South Muskogee, where visiting schools often park bus loads of children and allow them to walk to nearby restaurants.

“That’s a long stretch without anybody being able to cross,” said Ward 4 Councilor Linda Spyres.

Spyres told Kelly she hopes to see a crosswalk introduced into the plans to help pedestrians cross South Muskogee.

“It’s needed; it’s about required,” she said.

Engineers promised to look into a couple of options – from a raised crosswalk with lights to a pedestrian bridge – and report back on the cost.

jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com

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