Tahlequah Daily Press

September 26, 2013

Building bridges

ODOT discusses replacement options with local residents

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Upcoming construction was the topic of a well-attended Tuesday meeting hosted by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation at Briggs Public School.

The purpose of the construction is to replace the bridges over the Barren Fork and Eldon Creek, and to move and enhance the Y intersecting Oklahoma Highway 51 and U.S. Highway 62.

“We have done some collision data, and there have been 18 accidents in this area over the last five years,” said Jenny Sallee of Garver Construction Services. “Six were injury accidents with seven persons injured.”

ODOT is requesting public feedback on two similar options, the biggest difference being whether the landmark building to the southwest of the intersection will be removed, or Eldon Hill will be cut.

“Alternative 3” would remove the building, which is under consideration as an historically significant structure. The plan also places the intersection farther south of Eldon Hill. Some sentiment was expressed from the audience that moving the intersection farther from Eldon Hill would enhance traffic safety.

Any historical significance of the building, which goes by many local names, would not eliminate Alternative 3 as a construction option.

“A designation would not offer any sort of special protection,” said Kirsten McCollough of Garver.

Estimated cost of the option is $10 million.

“Alternative 4” would move the curve and intersection slightly north, creating a cut of several yards into Eldon Hill. Estimated cost of construction is $9.1 million.

Otherwise the plans are essentially the same. Both call for the replacement of Eldon Bridge, routing Highway 51 eastward and building a new bridge across Eldon Creek.

The current route will remain open while construction is under way. Much of the old Highway 51 north of Eldon Bridge, including the old Eldon Creek bridge, will remain in service as an access road.

Though neither plan is large-scale, each is expected to require property acquisitions which may necessitate the relocation of residents. An environmental impact study will be conducted to research potential effects on local flora and fauna.

“The study will also include archaeological considerations,” McCollough said.

Attendees were given a public comment form and the public may submit forms until Oct. 9 to Environmental Programs Division, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, 200 N.E. 21st St., Oklahoma City, Okla., 73105-3204. Comments can also be made by email to environment@odot.org. Those commenting by email should specify the project in the subject line.

-- srowley@tahlequahdailypress.com