Editorial: Gilcrease extension still a worthwhile project
BY World's Editorials Writers
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
9/19/12 at 3:45 AM
A project as massive, expensive and complex as an urban highway loop is never a simple proposition. But Tulsa city councilors should not give up on completing the city's outer loop just because there is no easy funding solution or because the city has other expensive needs.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett has aggressively lobbied for completing the Gilcrease Expressway, the final segment of the loop yet to be done on the northwest side of the city, and is seeking $10 million in Vision2 sales-tax funds to move the project along.
But he hasn't drummed up much support yet. Several councilors, in fact, don't seem even lukewarm about advancing the project.
Council Chairman G.T. Bynum questions why "no one else has been willing to commit real resources to get this done," pointing to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation's slow progress on the project and an Oklahoma Turnpike Authority's study showing it to be unfeasible as a toll road.
"I don't see encouraging sprawl and building highways that connect fields to fields as being a good, urgent use of taxpayer dollars," Bynum said.
We'd remind Bynum that pretty much all of this region was empty fields before transportation networks began attracting development.
Councilor Blake Ewing also has questioned the project, contending highways don't necessarily spawn development. He'd get a lot of argument from business leaders and other property owners on that point.
He also called the Gilcrease project "the very definition of sprawl-oriented development."
These councilors make some legitimate points, but their observations don't take into account the long view. Urban "sprawl" has become almost a dirty word, but do these councilors truly believe that all future development in the Tulsa area will occur in already developed parts of town? Sure, it's a great idea to redevelop within the city, but the fact is the only large, vacant tracts of land still available for development are in the northwest sector.
It's a legitimate question whether to include Gilcrease funding in the Vision2 proposition. But let's not lose sight of the city's long-range future. If previous leaders had felt the same way, much of Tulsa would still be plowed ground.
Original Print Headline: Long view