Tulsa Councilor Blake Ewing questions funding of Gilcrease Expressway
BY JARREL WADE World Staff Writer
Friday, August 10, 2012
8/10/12 at 3:55 AM
Some city councilors on Thursday questioned the continued funding of Tulsa's Gilcrease Expressway extension, a decades-old initiative that at its current pace wouldn't be complete until about 2050.
Councilor Blake Ewing said during a committee meeting that he was not trying to obstruct the project but questioned city officials about why $6 million per year continues to go to the extension work while other infrastructure in Tulsa needs funding.
The Gilcrease Expressway, a project proposed more than 50 years ago, connects some highways but has not yet been completed to finish a loop around the city and expand access to parts of Tulsa with little current highway access.
The loop in its current form includes Interstate 44 on the south, U.S. 169 on the east, and Interstate 244 and Oklahoma 11 on the north - currently ending at the L.L. Tisdale Parkway.
Still to be constructed are portions northwest of downtown, a bridge across the Arkansas River and a highway through western Tulsa County, according to the proposed plan.
"The point is that every year that we're doing this, we're taking $6 million that could go ... to the community that has present-day value," Ewing said.
Paul Zachary, the city's Engineering Services Department director, said every study the city has undergone, from 1960 to the last decade, has supported the need for the Gilcrease Expressway project.
"Up until this point, there has been no study showing that the Gilcrease should be stopped," Zachary said. "It's been justified over and over again."
The committee agenda item before councilors was a request for a resolution that would be necessary to obtain additional federal funds for the project and was not a commitment of additional money, Zachary said.
Although Ewing said he wouldn't try to block the resolution, he said he didn't want to waste money on new infrastructure while the city can't maintain the infrastructure it already has.
Councilor Jack Henderson said finishing the project is important to the city and that the current council should make good on a promise made by earlier councils.
"Every year that we use that money, we're making good on a promise that was made," Henderson said. "I just hope that I live long enough to see it completed."
The extension of the Gilcrease Expressway is one of the shared goals that the Mayor's Office and the council approved earlier this year.
The issue first appeared on the councilors' committee agenda in mid-July but wasn't discussed until Thursday after the Mayor's Office delayed the discussion.
Original Print Headline: Expressway funding questioned
Jarrel Wade 918-581-8367