Councilors tepid on Gilcrease plan
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Thursday, September 13, 2012
9/13/12 at 8:10 AM
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The Gilcrease Expressway extension should not receive Vision2 funding despite Mayor Dewey Bartlett's recommendation for the project to get $10 million, some Tulsa city councilors say.
"Theoretically, it's a nice idea," Council Chairman G.T. Bynum said.
"But the only people I hear clamoring for it are from the Mayor's Office and INCOG (the Indian Nations Council of Governments), simply because it's been in the plans for decades."
Bynum said he hasn't heard a compelling argument as to why it should be a funding priority.
"We have to look at what the best return for our money will be," he said.
"I don't see encouraging sprawl and building highways that connect fields to fields as being an good, urgent use of taxpayer dollars."
Councilors will begin Thursday discussing what to include on the list of city projects that would be funded with $158 million from the Tulsa County Vision2 initiative, if it is approved by voters Nov. 6.
The council will solidify the projects list through a resolution that will make its way to the mayor for his signature.
Proposed more than 50 years ago, the Gilcrease Expressway connects some highways but has not yet been completed to finish a loop around the city.
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, ending at the L.L. Tisdale Parkway.
Still to be constructed are portions northwest of downtown, a bridge across the Arkansas River west of downtown and a highway through western Tulsa County, according to the plan.
Bartlett has told the Tulsa World that the city needs to devote some money to the project to match with funding from other area municipalities, tribes and other government sources.
The total to complete the extension would exceed $230 million.
Once done, it would unlock areas of north and west Tulsa that are ripe for economic development, Bartlett said.
City Councilor Jack Henderson agrees, saying the extension would provide countless development opportunities across north and west Tulsa.
"You'd have a lot of people wanting to open businesses, I think," he said.
"There's a gold mine in north Tulsa. Land is cheap. It's close to downtown. And its just waiting to be developed."
But Councilor Blake Ewing disagrees, saying it's an "old and easily disproven hypothesis" that building highways leads to economic development, pointing to the L.L. Tisdale Expressway as an example.
If Tulsa officials want to better infrastructure that would facilitate economic development, there's plenty of it already within the city, he said.
Extending the Gilcrease Expressway "would be a huge expense," Ewing said. "And it's the very definition of sprawl-oriented development.
"All I hear at City Hall is that we don't have sufficient revenues to maintain the infrastructure we've already built."
The city needs to improve its density, Ewing said, so its sales-tax revenue increases, without increasing taxes, and it can afford to properly care for its existing infrastructure.
Councilor Karen Gilbert indicated that she has similar concerns about Vision2 money going toward the highway extension, and Councilor Phil Lakin said it's not at the top of his funding priority list.
Original Print Headline: Councilors tepid on Gilcrease plan
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