A Tulsa highway project more than half a century in the making is underway.
State and local officials put shovels to dirt at a groundbreaking Tuesday for the long-awaited Gilcrease Expressway Extension. The 5-mile toll road connecting Tisdale Parkway to I-44 was announced in just 2017, but it would complete a highway loop in west Tulsa on the drawing board since 1961.
County Commissioner Karen Keith said the new route will benefit residents in several ways.
"The Gilcrease is a safety valve, an additional and much-needed connection for our first responders, and a less-congested route for Chandler Park, west Tulsa and Sand Springs," Keith said.
Supporters say the toll road will not only ease congestion in the metro but also spur development along its corridor. Duit Construction President Tim Duit said that turned out to be the case with Kilpatrick Turnpike, even though he thought it was a "waste of money" at the time.
"The only thing out there was Mercy Hospital and Quail Springs Mall. What else was there? Now, drive that today and tell me that thing has not paid itself off multiple, multiple times," Duit said.
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said north and west Tulsa have long taken a backseat when it comes to big projects.
"And now, here we are in a position where this thing is going to be built over the next three years, which is remarkable, and it is going to unlock the economies in north Tulsa and west Tulsa in a way that they’ve never been before," Bynum said.
Plans call for a four-lane toll road with a 70 mile-per-hour speed limit running roughly along 57th West Avenue. Duit estimated the $330 million project will be done around March 2022.
The Gilcrease Expressway Extension is being paid for through a mix of federal, state, local and private funding.