The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is exploring the possibility of constructing a south Tulsa bridge over the Arkansas River, Principal Chief James Floyd confirmed Tuesday.
“We are in the very early exploratory stages,” Floyd said. “We have entered into a short-term contract with CDM Smith, a specialist in collecting and assessing transportation and infrastructure data.
“This information is critical to share with members of our National Council so an informed decision can be made of whether to move to the next phase of the feasibility study.”
Floyd said he expects the transportation portion of the study to be completed by the end of May.
Previous proposals to build a south Tulsa bridge have focused on several possible landing spots, including having the structure span the river from approximately 121st Street and Yale Avenue on the Tulsa side to approximately 131st Street and Kimberly Clark Place on the Jenks side.
But Floyd stressed Tuesday that no location has been determined.
“It is simply too early for any speculation on any specific location, or even whether the project is viable, until all of the data collection is complete and all of the regional stakeholders have weighed in on the project,” he said.
The city of Tulsa and Tulsa County confirmed Tuesday that they have been contacted by the tribe about the project. The city declined to comment further.
The city and the county received a letter from Floyd in the fall asking them to sign a resolution in support of building a “South Tulsa County Arkansas River Bridge.”
Neither the city nor the county signed the resolution. County Commissioner Ron Peters said that several months ago the tribe invited county officials to attend a meeting on the bridge.
“The location on the Tulsa side was to be somewhere between 121st and 91st (streets), as I recall,” Peters said. “About a week later, we received the letter from them asking for us to write a letter of support for their project.
“We declined because there wasn’t an exact location on the Tulsa side to support. In other words, the proposal was too vague to support.”
Meanwhile, Parks Director Anna America told the Park and Recreation Board last month that her department has put on hold planned improvements for Cousins Parks until it is determined whether bridge construction would encroach on the park. America stressed this week that she was not part of the discussions and does not know any particulars about the project.
“My understanding is that there are ongoing discussions about the placement of that (connector) road and Cousins Park has come up as one of the possibilities,” America said. “And until that is resolved, we’re just in a holding pattern.”
Cousins Park sits on the southwest corner of Yale Avenue and 121st Street, fronting the Arkansas River. In 2009, the Creek Nation purchased three parcels totaling more than 60 acres directly east of the park.
The tribe placed the land into the ownership of the United States in 2014 to be held in trust for the tribe — allowing the tribe to govern the land and improvements on it.
Creek Nation officials have said previously that the tribe plans to erect a bridge on the property spanning the river and connecting south Tulsa and Jenks.
In 2008, a controversial plan by the Arkansas River Bridge Authority — comprised of Jenks and Bixby — to build a toll bridge over the river ended up in the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The court decided the authority could not build the bridge without the city of Tulsa’s consent.