Bixby might use Vision2 funds for bridge over Arkansas River
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Saturday, September 29, 2012
9/29/12 at 7:28 AM
Learn more about the $748.8 million, 13-year plan to extend Tulsa County’s 0.6 percent Vision 2025 sales tax.
BIXBY - An effort to put a bridge over the Arkansas River in southern Tulsa County has life again.
Bixby Mayor Ray Bowen said his city would propose spending its $11.3 million share of Vision2 funds on helping to build a bridge somewhere on the river, if voters approve the initiative on Nov. 6.
Such a bridge - a Bixby goal since 2004 that has long been opposed by south Tulsa leaders and residents - makes the most sense for the city, he said.
The City Council will take the idea to a town hall meeting if Vision2 passes, he said.
"I think it would be something just about 100 percent supported by our citizens," he said, adding that "few projects will offer as much potential to improve public safety, quality of life and economic development for our community and this region."
Because a bridge would cost far more than Bixby's share of the funds, the city would likely seek additional funding from state agencies or area municipalities - possibly including Jenks, which joined Bixby in a previous bridge proposal, City Councilor Steve Todoroff said.
He said the city has no specific location in mind, but that it would consider Yale Avenue and points east.
"It depends on who would want to get involved," he said. "Anybody that's interested in helping to get the bridge, we'd be willing to talk to."
A toll bridge from 131st Street in Jenks to the intersection of Yale Avenue and 121st Street in Tulsa was proposed by county leaders in 2004, again by Jenks and Bixby soon after and then by a Muscogee (Creek) Nation business in 2008.
The latest proposal died in 2010 when the tribe fired the business's CEO and its board.
Bowen said he could not comment on whether city officials again envision a toll bridge.
Bixby's city limits along the Arkansas River span two miles from Sheridan to Mingo roads, about a mile on either side of the existing bridge at Memorial Drive.
Jenks and Tulsa, which encompass areas west of Sheridan, would have to be involved in a project west of Bixby.
Jenks Mayor Vic Vreeland said he has had no contact with Bixby officials about the latest idea.
"We need a bridge there really bad, but I don't think that there's enough money, even if we took all of Bixby's (Vision2) money and all of Jenks' (Vision2) money," he said, adding that he would oppose doing so anyway.
Jenks' City Council has decided that it would spend its $9.2 million Vision2 allocation on economic development and tourism, rather than infrastructure.
Tulsa City Councilor Phil Lakin, who represents areas of south Tulsa, said he has spoken with Bixby officials but that his fears about a bridge have not changed since previous proposals.
Chief among them is that a bridge would increase traffic on roads that cannot support it, he said.
He said he would especially oppose another proposal involving Yale Avenue, a two-lane road serving quiet, residential neighborhoods.
"This project, if it would move forward, would just be one that I'd dedicate an enormous amount of attention to, knowing its history and knowing how significantly it could impact anyone and everyone who lives down there," he said.
However, while past bridge proposals suffered from a lack of communication between leaders and residents, this time has a chance to be different, he said.
Lakin said he arranged a meeting in July between Bowen and a handful of Tulsa resident leaders who opposed the earlier bridge proposals and feared that Bixby would resurrect the project with Vision2 funds, Lakin said.
"It just made them feel really great to be included in the conversation," he said.
"I really do think that Bixby is approaching this the right way."
Vision2, which would extend the countywide 0.6 percent Vision 2025 sales tax rate through 2029, allocates $361.9 million of its $748.8 million revenue for quality-of-life improvements. The county and each of its cities would receive a portion and develop their own projects.
If Bixby cannot find financial help for the bridge, it would spend its share on economic development, public safety or other infrastructure projects, Bowen said.
Either way, the city would hold a town hall meeting if Vision2 passes, he said.
Bowen previously said city councilors were unsure whether they would select Vision2 projects before the election.
Original Print Headline: Bixby revives bridge proposal
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
Bixby Mayor Ray Bowen: "I think it would be something just about 100 percent supported by our citizens."