POSTED ON OCTOBER 24, 2012:
The Home Stretch
Councilor Phil Lakin represents mostly residential district
The Jenks and Union school districts do better than the state average in most measures of student performance, providing a big draw for families.
But driving to and from those schools isn't always easy in south Tulsa.
"We have very beautiful roads, very beautiful tree-lined roads in south Tulsa. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them are just two lanes. So we have significant capacity issues," said District 8 City Councilor Phil Lakin. "That's my, I think number one goal, to bring to this district money for street-widening."
The district has a mostly residential feel, and features many well-built homes nestled next to each other in suburban-style housing enclaves.
With a western boundary of South Harvard Avenue and an eastern boundary of South Memorial Drive, the district has a jagged northern boundary made up of East 71st and East 61st streets.
But the district is partially bounded to the south by the Arkansas River, where Lakin pointed out the promise of riverside acreage destined to become parkland to the south and west of South Yale Avenue and East 121st Street. A land donation by the Cousins family will eventually allow what are now fields with tall grasses to become one of the largest parks in Tulsa. Plans include making a connection to an existing trail system in Bixby, which lies on the south side of the river from the proposed park site.
"See that hawk right there? You don't get that everywhere in Tulsa," Lakin said as a large bird passed by overhead.
While some progress has been made in developing the park -- about $450,000 has been allocated for design work -- Lakin said money will need to be raised to bring the vision of the park into reality.
"There's a private group, Friends of Cousins Park organization, that will be out there fundraising. They have a lot of work to do before anything of significance can be built," Lakin said.
One successful park project already enjoyed by south Tulsans is the Biscuit Acres dog park located inside Hunter Park. On a cool autumn morning, about a dozen dogs raced around the comfortably large fenced area set aside for dogs (with benches for dog owners as well).
Yet Lakin pointed out the lack of access to the park for people who live just across the street from it, with a lack of sidewalks making it dangerous for pedestrians to try to cross a busy street and navigate ditches and gullies to reach the park.
Through the Vision2 proposal, city council districts would receive roughly $500,000 in funds for so-called quality-of-life improvements. Lakin said the money wouldn't be enough to fund street-widening projects, but could pay for some sidewalks.
"I would hope we could apply it to sidewalk construction to get kids and families from neighborhood to neighborhood and neighborhood to school and neighborhood to business," Lakin said. Along with more sidewalks, Lakin said Vision2 funds might be used to fund installation of speed humps on residential streets.
"I have probably 10 different neighborhoods that want those speed humps," Lakin said, adding that each costs roughly $3,500.
His district has commercial development mainly at the corners of the busiest streets, with a notable project under construction as Whole Foods Market will open only its third store in the state at East 91st Street and South Yale Avenue.
For several blocks to the north of the intersection is an especially curvy section of South Yale Avenue, which Lakin described as a top priority for road improvements.
Too often, the narrow road is the site of accidents, especially when roads are slick from precipitation, he said.
"You have six lanes coming to it, then you have two lanes because of the hill it has to go over, and it's extremely dangerous. There are a disproportionate number of accidents and fatalities on that road than any other road -- in District 8, for sure," Lakin said.
The solution is a pricey one, roughly $33 million to take curves out of the road and eliminate some of the hill.
"They have it all designed, they just need money to do it," Lakin said. Given the cost of the project, however, it will likely need approval from voters, perhaps as part of a transportation package Lakin said city councilors will likely prepare in the coming months for a 2013 election date.
It's a challenge to figure out a way to make the roadway changes, but "if I can get them on the books and in planning, then I think we will have resolved a lot of traffic issues and congestion issues that we have down here," Lakin said.
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