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'Most expensive street project in Tulsa's history' will widen Yale to 6 lanes between 81st and 91st

City officials and contractors participate in a groundbreaking to mark the start of a Yale Avenue widening project. The groundbreaking was in a residential lot the city purchased on the west side of the roadway. Trees offer a buffer between the lot and the road.
Matt Trotter
City officials and contractors participated in a groundbreaking Monday to mark the start of a widening project on Yale Avenue between 81st and 91st streets. The groundbreaking was in a residential lot the city purchased on the west side of the current roadway.

Work has started to widen Yale Avenue between 81st and 91st streets from two lanes to six.

It’s the last portion of the road between the Creek Turnpike and I-44 that is not six lanes, and the twisty, hilly stretch is considered one of the most dangerous in the city. The road, which has several connections to neighborhoods, will also be flattened and straightened, all at a cost of nearly $30 million.

City Councilor Phil Lakin said the stretch of Yale has been on his radar for a long time. After he was elected, Tulsa Police provided him a report saying there were 177 crashes there from 2004 through 2012, about three times the number on Sheridan Road and four times the number on Harvard Avenue.

"We've heard the screeching tires and sirens. We've personally experienced near misses of our own. We've all thought twice about driving through this corridor just after a little fine mist had sprinkled the ground. We've seen the guardrails and the yellow barrels full of sand that are worthless and no more," Lakin said.

The two-year project is starting with the building of a retaining wall on the west side of Yale. That will prevent a current problem from happening in the future: The road is sliding downhill.

"The way that the road is anchored right now is not sufficient for the traffic load. It may have been sufficient when the road was originally built when south Tulsa was sparsely populated, but now, south Tulsa has boomed from a development standpoint over the last 40, 50 years," said Mayor G.T. Bynum.

The road will close overnight Thursday for utility work. There will be a closure to all but local traffic starting early next year.

The widening project was included in the Improve Our Tulsa sales tax package.