Stretch of I-244 in Tulsa eyed for beautification
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Sunday, December 09, 2012
12/09/12 at 8:06 AM
Find all the stories from Staff Writers Brian Barber and Kevin Canfield about city government in Tulsa.
First impressions are important.
But unfortunately, the first area of Tulsa that many visitors see after arriving at the airport is the litter-strewn, unkempt stretch of Interstate 244 to downtown.
"That's not good at all," Mayor Dewey Bartlett said. "We want our city to have a clean, welcoming feeling."
The city's Beautification Task Force, established earlier this year by the mayor and City Council, has recommended a targeted effort to improve the aesthetics along the six-mile highway section.
"The airport really is our gateway," said Ken Busby, chairman of the task force, which wants Tulsa to reclaim its title as "America's Most Beautiful City."
"Of course, there are a lot of beautiful areas of Tulsa for people to see if they get out and explore, but we really should try to put our best foot forward from the moment they enter the city."
Among the group's ideas is having more frequent litter collection, removing the battered chain-link fencing along the highway that traps debris and garbage in favor of natural barriers like tree lines and adding some low-maintenance landscaping.
Joe Howell, a landscape architect who serves on the task force, created a rendering that shows what it would look like to transform the sloped banks that are in some areas into terrace walls with greenery.
"We don't want to go overboard," Busby said. "But there are simple things that could be done to make the area more attractive."
City leaders plan to sit down with Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials to discuss possibilities.
The highway and its rights-of-way and maintenance are, for the most part, controlled by the state.
"I know budgets are stretched thin," Bartlett said. "But I'm sure there are some partnerships that could be entered into that would improve things."
When there have been major events happening in Tulsa, such as the NCAA Tournament, PGA Championship and U.S. Open golf tournament in recent years, special cleanups for the I-244 corridor have been organized, the mayor noted.
"Wouldn't it be great to have it looking nice all the time?" he asked.
ODOT spokeswoman Kenna Mitchell said having such a conversation with Tulsa officials is welcomed.
Litter crews are dispatched once a month unless there's something in the highway that would prompt an immediate response, she said.
The stretch of I-244 is in the department's eight-year capital plan for millions of dollars to be spent repairing the structurally deficient bridges and improving the pavement condition.
No money is allocated to improve the look of the rights-of-ways, she said.
"Due to our backlog, we are really focused on the actual roadway to protect the traveling public," Mitchell said.
The construction has postponed some aesthetic projects along I-244 by the Tulsa Beautification Foundation.
Years ago, the organization added some plantings at the airport terminals and entrances.
It wanted to continue its efforts by painting the bridges, staining the on and off ramps and making other cosmetic improvements within the corridor, program officer Josh Miller said.
"But it just didn't make sense for us to do anything that's just going to be undone by the construction," he said. "We'll look at it again down the road."
The foundation would be willing to participate in discussions with the city and ODOT about partnerships, Miller said.
"There's definitely a need there," he said, "and it's in an area that we are particularly interested in."
Original Print Headline: I-244 eyed for beautification
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
Traffic passes on Interstate 244 near North Zunis Avenue and East Admiral Place. The city's Beautification Task Force wants to make improvements along the six-mile stretch of highway from the airport to downtown. MIKE SIMONS / Tulsa World
An artist's rendering shows possible landscaping for the Interstate 244 corridor in Tulsa between the airport and downtown. Source: Tulsa Beautification Task Force