City leaders will announce a plan early next month to complete the Gilcrease Expressway using a unique funding approach that includes turnpike tolls.
Invitations from Mayor G.T. Bynum and Gov. Mary Fallin are being delivered this week to area leaders for a March 10 event at Chandler Park, 6500 W. 21st St., to announce details of the plan.
“It’s a partnership between the city of Tulsa, Tulsa County, Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and Oklahoma Department of Transportation (which are) committed to the completion of the concept of the Gilcrease Expressway,” Tulsa Deputy Mayor Michael Junk told the Tulsa World.
The Gilcrease Expressway project began in the 1950s to create a loop around the city. Finished portions largely include Interstate 44 and Oklahoma 11, and the planned loop has stalled at a necessary crossing of the Arkansas River west of downtown.
The final portion needed to complete the loop, west and northwest of downtown, will require a substantial investment, largely for a bridge across the river.
At current funding rates that come largely from local contributions, the project is scheduled for completion close to 2050 — 100 years after it was started.
The approach being announced March 10 — while still requiring more pieces to fall into place — will be a multisource funding process to complete the loop with a turnpike and a substantially quicker timeline than current funding allows, Junk said.
“It will be a turnpike,” Junk said.
“It’s a result of many months of planning and coordinating. … We have seen the need for access to that side of Tulsa.”
The project has two main goals: to provide road access for development of northwest Tulsa and to lighten the wear and tear that heavy traffic puts on Tulsa’s Inner Dispersal Loop, Junk said.
One key component of turning the new part of the loop into a turnpike is that the city of Tulsa wouldn’t ultimately be on the hook for maintaining the roadway, Junk said.
“There’s going to be a lot of questions regarding the viability of this project,” Junk said. “We have done an extensive study to ensure the need of the project.”