ODOT extends deadline for comments for proposed U.S. 69 improvements in Muskogee

Seen are the current layout of U.S. 69 near Border Avenue, top, and the three proposed upgrades.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation announced that it has extended the deadline for the public to comment on the proposed improvements to a segment of U.S. 69 in Muskogee.

ODOT is hosting a virtual open house to provide information on the three proposals to improve traffic flow and safety along the existing alignment, which is a primary commuter and truck route. The public can visit www.odot.org/US69Muskogee to view the proposed designs and provide comments through Jan. 18.

Muskogee Mayor Marlon Coleman said he feels it's important for citizens to voice their opinions as to the choices available for consideration.

"My responsibility at this point is to make certain that the information that ODOT put on the web site is actually getting out to the residents," he said. "Because ODOT sets the timeline for the responses. Once they post the site for the open house, it really is incumbent on us to be certain that everybody participates, because we want people to understand the importance of giving us the (U.S.) Highway 69 that we deserve to have."

There are three proposals ODOT is taking into consideration from West Okmulgee Avenue south to Border Avenue:

• Construction of six-lane curb and gutter with raised median with an estimated cost of $35.926 million.

• Construction of seven-lane curb and gutter with continuous two-way left-turn lane with an estimated cost of $35.607 million.

• Reconstruct existing four-lane curb and gutter with raised median with an estimated cost of $27.277 million.

Muskogee attorney Gerald Miller, who launched the stopodot.org campaign in 2017 after learning that same year about the inclusion of the proposed U.S. 69 bypass on ODOT's eight-year construction plan, has submitted his comments and prefers the six-lane option.

"It's a little more expensive, but it'll probably result in not having to re-do anything for the next 30 years," he said. "I think that's the option they initially planned on doing.

"I think there were some improvements to some intersections as well as turn lanes that goes along with that. I thought it was probably the best plan."

The one he least preferred was the option that had the continuous two-way left-turn lane.

"I would not support a left-center turn lane," he said. "People are going to get killed if they use that. It's pretty dangerous, and it's not the most efficient use of money. The four-lane just seems like they're spending money."

Mayor Coleman, on the other hand, prefers the seven-lane, the option Miller prefers the least.

"We want identical to what was done when they did 69 in front of QuikTrip," Coleman said. "We need to have Highway 69 that encourages economic development. If you look at what's going on on the west side of 69, QuikTrip has developed, Starbucks has developed and we've got other businesses looking to come to that side of town.

"We need to do that on the other side of Highway 69, because it will cure several problems — it will get rid of some of the dilapidated structures and it will be welcoming to other industries and retail who want to be on Highway 69."

The project began in 2014 when ODOT tasked Holloway, Updike and Bellen Inc. with designing upgrades to the corridor including widening portions to six lanes, replacing the railroad pedestrian bridge and updating traffic signals to match aspects along U.S. 69 from Okmulgee Avenue north to Shawnee Bypass, which was completed in 2006.

In 2017, Holloway, Updike and Bellen was directed to cease design work as the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) decided to explore realignment of U.S. 69 to loop around the west side of Muskogee. This realignment came with opposition from the city of Muskogee, as well as numerous residents and property owners along the existing corridor.

In April 2019, state transportation officials abandoned the unpopular plan, opting instead to address operational and safety issues in a manner "more representative of the community's desires."

Due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, this presentation will be a web-based public viewing format with no in-person meetings scheduled.

Those without internet access can contact the ODOT Environmental Programs Division, 200 N.E. 21st St., Suite 3-D2a, Oklahoma City, OK 73105 or call (405) 521-3050.

What to do

The public can visit www.odot.org/US69Muskogee to view the proposed designs and provide comments through Jan. 18.

Those without internet access can contact the ODOT Environmental Programs Division, 200 N.E. 21st St., Suite 3-D2a, Oklahoma City, OK 73105 or call (405) 521-3050.

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