After a recent news story ran about a construction project affecting Interstate 44 in west Tulsa, a reader contacted the Tulsa World about a safety concern.

Lights on the I-44 Arkansas River bridge, which has been narrowed to two lanes in each direction, are out.

Highway lighting is the city of Tulsa’s responsibility within the city limits, and the city for years has been trying to replace wiring and lighting following a rash of copper thefts that have left stretches of highways in the dark.

A city spokeswoman on Monday said the city will be taking advantage of the I-44 construction project to replace lighting on the Arkansas River bridge.

“The city contractor, TLS (Traffic & Lighting Systems), will be working in the lanes that will be closed during the project, to have access to the light fixtures while traffic is not in the lane,” city spokeswoman Lara Weber said in an email.

She said, however, an exact date of when they will be back on was not immediately available.

The $4 million project by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation involves crews replacing expansion joints on the bridge.

It began Oct. 14 and is expected to last until early 2020, weather permitting.

Barrier walls have been set up on the bridge and the speed limit has been reduced. Exit and on-ramps in the area also will be closed at times.

ODOT spokeswoman Kenna Mitchell has said motorists can expect significant delays in the area, especially during peak commute times.

She said drivers should adjust their schedules or seek an alternative route, especially during commute times.

The project will also include resurfacing 2 miles of I-44 from the bridge west to near the I-244 junction (western split). That is expected to take place over several weekends and lanes will be narrowed during those times, Mitchell said.

Another concern motorists have expressed about the affected area is the highway striping — or lack of its visible presence at night — which is ODOT’s responsibility.

Mitchell said temporary striping will be put in as crews work in various areas, and permanent striping will be put in as new pavement is finished.

“People are just going to have to be patient,” she said.

The repaving work is being done on the weekends so that commuter traffic during the week is not affected by the necessary lane closures, she said.

The project will set the stage for the eventual widening of the highway between the western I-244 split and the Arkansas River bridge to six lanes, officials have said.

Construction of an entirely new, redesigned interchange at I-44 and U.S. 75 also is planned.

The first phase of the highway expansion — which will include replacing the Union Avenue and 33rd West Avenue bridges — could begin as early as next year.

I-44 in west Tulsa is the oldest section of interstate in Oklahoma, officials have said.

On average, 50,300 to 86,700 vehicles per day travel the affected section of I-44, according to 2018 ODOT traffic counts.

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Michael Dekker





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