When Governor Mary Fallin and members of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority had a State Capitol ceremony back in October 2015 to announce a big deal turnpike expansion program, they probably didn’t have many Eastern Oklahoma County landowners in the audience offering the applause.
The $680 million project would expand or build six new toll roads in the state including the Northeast Oklahoma County loop that is supposed to connect the Turner Turnpike (I-44) to I-40 in a 21-mile stretch that a lot of worried landowners from Luther, Harrah and Choctaw fear might cut straight through their farms, homes and dreams.
Since that October 29 unveiling, the questions and the worry have been building. So what are citizens to do not only when their questions aren’t getting answered but not even an official map has been shared? They turn to social media.
A Facebook page, Citizens Opposed to the Eastern Oklahoma County Loop-Turnpike-Interstate, just today, posted an online petition that quickly gathered nearly 400 signatures.
The petition states:
The people of Eastern Oklahoma County, in order to protect our hard earned property, have determined to stand for our property rights in opposition to a proposed turnpike, the necessity of which has yet to be proven to the satisfaction of the residents of Eastern Oklahoma County. We are not willing to stand idly by and have our homes, farms, businesses, the very things we have spent our lives building, be replaced by an un-necessary turnpike.
The petitioners are calling for “an immediate cessation of all activity conducted in pursuit of this turnpike project. This petition is intended for Governor Mary Fallin, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, Oklahoma Department of Transportation, as well as any and all other parties engaged in the Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike Loop project.”
We the undersigned feel the time is not right for a new turnpike in Eastern Oklahoma County, and that such a project would displace and cause economic as well as physical hardship to many more people than it would benefit. There are many in the path of this project with land, farms, businesses, homes and property that have been in their families for generations, the loss of which would be greater than any gain any turnpike would provide.
Complete with a website, Driving Forward OK, and even a hashtag (#drivingforwardOK), the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and the governor claim they are planning for the future and laying the pavement for more economic development.
The website lists these details of the NE OK County Loop:
Project Length: 21 miles
Cost: $300 million
Type: New construction
Overview: this project will allow for a connection from Eastern Oklahoma County to vital intersections for travel. This will produce a drive-time reduction to access Tulsa from the OKC Metro and a needed new loop to alleviate current congested traffic in the Oklahoma City area. Construction will link I-40 and I-44 (Turner Turnpike) in Eastern Oklahoma County.
The website made sure to point out that the mammoth project is not part of the state budget, a budget with a $900 million reduction this coming year. “Users of the system will pay for the project,” OTA proclaims in their marketing materials. Tolls and bonds?
This is not the first time this turnpike spur has been proposed. The state spent $375,000 back in 1999 to study a loop east of Oklahoma City. Public outcry halted the project. (news.ok)
If you are in the affected area (wherever that might be somewhere in the general area of Hogback Road, Peebly, or is it Triple X, maybe Memorial?) or have a concern, would you comment or send an email to [email protected]. Even if you are for the project, we’d like to hear from you.