After more than 50 years of maybes, somedays and possibilities, the west leg of the Gilcrease Expressway took a giant step toward reality at a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning.
At the corner of 56th West Avenue and 21st Street, Gov. Kevin Stitt, Mayor G.T. Bynum and County Commissioner Karen Keith gathered with other local and state officials to commemorate the final leg of the expressway first envisioned in 1961.
Bynum thanked former Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley for his work on getting the project started. He said the new highway will open new opportunities for parts of Tulsa left out of economic growth elsewhere in the city.
“Knowing that both north Tulsa and west Tulsa for so many years took a back seat to the rest of the city when it came to economic development,” Bynum said. “There are so many people who kept pushing to continue, year by year incrementally assembling funding needed for the land to build this expressway.
“Now here we are, in position where this thing is going to be built over the next three years, and it is going to unlock the economies in north Tulsa and west Tulsa in a way they’ve never been before.”
Tim Duit, with Edmond-based Duit Construction, said construction on the $261 million project will begin in earnest in January after the holidays. With good weather, the expressway should open in March 2022.
Complete with shovels and Oklahoma Turnpike Authority hardhats, officials broke ground just south of 21st Street.
Stitt said the project stands to spur further growth in the Tulsa area and demonstrate the state’s economic strength.
“I’m just so excited to showcase our state and our city with this new expressway,” Stitt said.
“This is going to be fantastic. When you think about this route, the economic development, I’m just so excited for that. We’re going to recruit more companies here. It’s going to alleviate a lot of the traffic issues.”
The west leg will connect the leg spanning north Tulsa to 51st Street near the I-44/I-244 western split in west Tulsa. It will include multiple bridges, including over Charles Page Boulevard and the Arkansas River west of downtown.
Keith — whom Bynum called “the patron saint of long term causes in our community, and she always ends up being right” — said she’s ecstatic that the expressway is no longer a shelved plan for the future.
“We all know too well how important this new transportation link is,” Keith said. “Gilcrease is a safety valve, an additional and much-needed connection for first responders, and a less congested route for Chandler Park, west Tulsa and Sand Springs.”