Officials praise IDL project's progress, stimulus act
BY GAVIN OFF World Data Editor
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
10/27/10 at 3:56 AM
On an Interstate 244 overpass near ONEOK Field, local, state and federal officials praised the $75 million stimulus project that's slowly transforming the road beneath them.
Victor Mendez, administrator of the Federal Highway Administration, joined Tulsa officials and members of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation on Tuesday to speak about the project's progress.
The day before, Mendez toured the Inner Dispersal Loop and other local roads and bridges in need of repair, such as the Interstate 244 bridge over the Arkansas River.
"I've never seen a recovery project that I didn't like," Mendez said. "I'm very glad that the recovery act helped."
The IDL project, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will repave some 40 bridges and three miles of highway, stretching west from I-244's bridge over U.S. 75 northeast of downtown to the Arkansas River. The road carries about 65,000 vehicles a day, according to an ODOT report.
It's the largest single project ever awarded by ODOT and more than 80 percent complete, said Randle White, ODOT engineer for the Tulsa area. White said the project should meet another milestone this week when IDL's west leg opens, weather permitting.
The loop's north leg is scheduled to open in early 2011.
"We're really excited about that," White said. "We can certainly see the light at the end of the tunnel."
The project began in the summer of 2009.
Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett said city officials were grateful for the stimulus funds and fortunate the IDL project was ready when the federal government awarded stimulus dollars. He said a redeveloped highway would help attract workers and businesses to the downtown area.
Gary Ridley, ODOT director, said the stimulus funds allowed the state to tackle the project all at once, rather than in pieces over many years.
"This project was extremely important to all of us," Ridley said. "We were only able to build it because of the ARRA funds."
The IDL repaving project is one of 274 stimulus-funded road projects in Oklahoma. In all, ODOT received more than $465 million from the recovery act. Those funds have allowed contractors to log more than 2.6 million work hours, an ODOT report states.
Work continued on the IDL on Tuesday even as local, state and federal officials spoke about the progress.
A few times during the morning meeting, dump trucks passed the small lectern and surrounding orange highway cones.
The trucks headed for the unpaved section of the IDL between ONEOK Field and the John Hope Franklin Reconciliation Park. Mendez even took a spin on a large motor grader.
"Many families are still struggling in this economy, but I believe we are heading in the right direction," he said.
"This project is putting people back to work."
During its first year, the IDL project created 382 direct jobs and 210 indirect jobs, said Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Metro Chamber.
He said the project provided a $137 million boost to the local economy.
Original Print Headline: Officials praise progress on IDL
Gavin Off 732-8106
FHA Administrator Victor Mendez drives a Caterpillar grader as he tours the Inner Dispersal Loop project Tuesday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
Mendez walks through a segment of the Inner Dispersal Loop project Tuesday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World
The northwest corner of the IDL with the Tulsa skyline in the background is seen earlier this month. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World
Dustin Wilson of Sherwood Construction gives a Caterpillar driving lesson to FHA Administrator Victor Mendez (right) as he tours the IDL project Tuesday. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World