Poteau, OKLAHOMA - Having good bridges and roads are not only good for the safety, but also vital for a economic development and having a world class transportation system makes for a better economy and attracting new businesses to the area, which is why State Representative, Lundy Kiger and State Senator, Mark Allen hosted a meeting with Anthony Kelly, Director of District 2, (which contains LeFlore County) with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to help inform the public about the ODOT 8-Year Highway Plan for LeFlore County.
According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, improvements are occurring, Oklahoma’s highway system bridge and pavement problems are readily recognized and a direct result of many years of “deferred maintenance” due to lack of state funding which was putting Oklahoma at top or near the top of list for having the worst bridge conditions.
There are over 6,800 bridges on the state highway system and many of those bridges are to narrow to support today’s traffic or have structural deficiencies and that is why Governor Mary Fallin put the focus on bridges and not on roadways.
Bridges could be the reason why some projects, such as adding a four lane from Sunset Corner was pushed back from the ODOT 8-year plan.
The meeting that was held at the Donald W Reynolds Center in Poteau, main goal was to answer questions as well as inform the public about road projects that will be taking place in the coming years through out the county.
“The past several years ODOT has “focused on bridges and roadway are suffering from it, but our bridges needed the attention,” said Kelly.
According to Kelly, District 2 has $75 million allotted, so each project must be evaluated to see who has the biggest need. On the average, 73.4 million vehicles miles are traveled each day on the Oklahoma Highway System. Much like the bridges the pavement surfaces also require some attention. There is 12, 254 miles of highway across the state.
Here is the current project for LeFlore County
Road Project from US 59 at Sunset Corner extending West. The project was on the 8-year plan, for and earlier date, but got pushed back. “Money had been coming” in said Senator Mark Allen, who is Chairman of Transportation committee, “and I am pushing for this money to be used on this project.”
The Sunset Corner project plans to begin in 2021 with obtaining right of ways and moving utilities. Project should be finished by 2024 for a cost of $45 million. Kelly told the citizen attending the meeting that ODOT has no intention of moving the project back and that the fatality rate is something they take into consideration.
Another road project for the county will be at State Highway 120 to US 271 in Pocola.
Plans are to purchase right of ways in 2026 with construction to begin in 2028. This would make a four-lane highway from Ricks Corner Mart to the stop light at Pocola.
ODOT will begin construction in 2024 on bridge expansions on Highway 112 over the Poteau River in Poteau.
Wister will get a new bridge over Caston Creek on US 270. The right of ways is almost complete and construction should begin in 2020.
Through the Asset Preservation Program, the city of Heavener will get some road improvements by replacing worn out pavement, upgrade the signal light and go from a four-lane undivided highway to a two line with a turning lane, adding sidewalks and ramps for motorized wheel chairs.
In Talihina ODOT has plans to put a shoulder on highway 63.
“Highway 9-59 from Sunset Corner west to the Sallisaw Junction is my #1 priority to see completed,” said Kiger. “We are taking steps right now to ensure this project will not be moved back again and will work hard to see if there are any possible opportunities to actually move this project up some in time.”
In order to keep these projects from being backed up or taken off the 8-year plan, the citizens in the county to stay informed and make their voice be heard. “We in rural Oklahoma have just as much right for good highways as anyone else” said Kiger. Which is why Kiger plans to arrange through the Poteau Chamber to host the ODOT Commissioner for District 2 to come to Poteau.
"Too many will crash and lose their lives until 2024, but together we can make a difference," said Kiger.