OKLAHOMA CITY — In another step toward restoration of the state Capitol, the building’s recently renovated west public entrance was reopened Wednesday.
The action is part of a $245 million Capitol overhaul being paid for with bonds approved by the Legislature. The building has electrical, structural and plumbing problems that are being corrected.
The new corridor is much wider and more aesthetically pleasing than the old entrance.
The state Ethics Commission and Election Board are expected to relocate to offices on the corridor in the spring, said Trait Thompson, Capitol project manager. They are currently in the south wing of the basement.
The new corridor is in what previously was called the basement but will be renamed the ground floor.
“This was some of the most difficult space,” Thompson said. “If we were going to find a big problem with the budget in terms of an unexpected condition, it probably would have manifested itself here — not to say that won’t happen somewhere else, but we are pretty relieved now that we have gotten some of the big utility stuff out of the way.”
The renovated area has new plumbing, electrical wiring, heating and cooling equipment and a generator. It also has new security cameras.
While the corridor was under construction, members of the public accessing the west entrance to the Capitol had to use an area that contained a loading dock and showed the underbelly of the 100-year-old building.
Thompson called the reopening “a milestone in the restoration of our magnificent Capitol.”
The outside restoration is expected to be completed in 2019, while the inside will not be done until 2022, he said.
Steve Mason, chairman of the State Capitol Restoration Expenditure Oversight Committee, said the work is on schedule and within its budget.
More than 1.4 million hours of labor have been involved in the entire restoration project, he said. The hours have been spent demolishing plumbing lines, digging trenches for new utilities and installing modern electrical equipment.
“People from all walks of life put their hearts and souls into renovating the state Capitol,” Mason said.
“This is the most beautiful renovation that has occurred in Oklahoma, and other states will be envious.”
Gov. Mary Fallin began working in the building some 28 years ago when she served in the Oklahoma House before being elected lieutenant governor and then governor.
Fallin said the Capitol serves many purposes, noting that it is where the state’s business is conducted. It draws tourists from around the world and school children who come to learn about government, she said.
In addition, the Capitol hosts various activities and celebrations, including weddings.
“I take great pride, as I know all of our fellow Oklahomans do, that we have a beautiful Capitol that is being restored to its glory,” Fallin said.