When city officials gathered on the east bank of the Arkansas River one steamy morning late last May to talk about Tulsa's extensive road rebuilding projects, it was with an eye toward pleading for patience on the part of local motorists.
At that point, the effort only recently had kicked into high gear, with 18 projects taking place on arterial streets and eight more occurring on non-arterial streets. All that work made it virtually impossible for drivers to travel more than a few miles in any direction without encountering a construction zone.
But since that time, a good many of those projects have been completed and others are nearing the finish line, meaning it's a little easier to get around Tulsa now than it was 11 months ago.
Henry Somdecerff, a design engineer manager with the city's Public Works Department, said there are three components to the work currently going on in the city. For the work included in the 2005 bond package, there were 129 projects budgeted at a total of $144.6 million, and 109 of those have been completed. For the 2006 package, there were 69 street projects budgeted at a cost of $102.4 million, and 30 of those are done. For the 2008 package, there were 102 projects budgeted at a cost of $278.7 million, and 31 of those are complete.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the work going on now and the construction being done a year ago is the location of the projects. City officials said in May 2010 that 47 projects would be put out to bid over the ensuing 12 months, but only four of them would be taking place on arterial streets, with 38 occurring on non-arterial streets and the remaining five consisting of trails projects.
Last week, Somdecerff confirmed that the nature of much of the work had swung to those neighborhood roads, explaining that Tulsa currently has 21 active non-arterial projects under construction.
But that's not to say motorists won't still encounter their share of delays from arterial projects. There is a handful under construction, including a major one on South Lewis Avenue between East 61st Street and E. 75th Street -- a project that was complicated by the existence of a bar ditch on both sides of the road, making for an extremely tight right of way that made for limited access for contractors and motorists.
The good news, Somdecerff said, is that the $9.6 million project is almost done. Crews are on pace to finish the work by its targeted completion date of August, he said.
Another big project is the widening of 129th East Avenue between 31st Street and 41st Street. That started in January and has an estimated completion date of February 2012, Somdecerff said. The budget for that work is $4.3 million.
Contractors completed a widening project on East 81st Street between Mingo and Memorial roads in the last 30 days, he said.
A street reconstruction project at the intersection of West 71st Street and South Union Avenue began a few weeks ago, but crews are working a 24-hour schedule to hasten its completion, according to the city's website. It has a targeted finish date of June.
Other projects will begin soon. Somdecerff said the city will begin advertising for bids in May on a project to widen the intersection at East 91st Street and Harvard Avenue. That work is scheduled to begin in August.
And a major project to widen 61st Street from Riverside Drive to Peoria Avenue, as well as relocate adjacent storm and sanitary sewers, will be advertised in the weeks ahead, he said.
Construction is slated to start in August, with the project scheduled for completion a year later.
A bridge project is planned for 101st Street just west of Memorial, he said. The city will seek bids this summer, with construction beginning in the fall. That work should be complete by the spring of 2012, Somdecerff said.
Perhaps the most visible new project to be initiated in the months ahead is the replacement of the Boulder Avenue bridge downtown. The city will put the project out to bid on Friday, April 29, with construction slated to begin in July, he said. It is targeted for completion in July 2012.
"The people interested in the Brady District have been closely watching that one," he said.
City officials said last year that the timing of all the road work was good in that Tulsa was benefitting from a decline in construction prices. Somdecerff said that situation continues today.
"With the downturn in the economy, we're getting more competitive bids," he said. "We're still enjoying a good bid situation right now."
City officials have said it will be 2015 or 2016 before all the projects included in the three streets packages are complete.
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