Luther—When the Kickapoo Turnpike opens in Eastern Oklahoma County, much of it will have an 80 mph speed limit.
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority on Tuesday approved the increased speed limits for the Kickapoo, under construction, and five other sections of turnpike around the state. The Oklahoma Legislature passed a bill last year regarding the increased speeds. Since then, OTA staff studied the issue and at the July meeting recommended the increases.
Only one OTA Board member voted against the increased speed limit. John Titsworth said during a committee meeting before the board meeting that he had safety concerns.
“My feeling is when people see 80 mph signs, they’ll think it’s for the whole thing … I don’t think it’s a good idea myself,” said Titsworth, from McAlester, who was appointed to the Authority in 2019. The meetings were held virtually.
OTA Director Tim Gatz told the appointed board members that the subject matter of speed limits is extremely serious, and the speed recommendations are a result of many hours of study and consultation with engineers as well as with the Department of Public Safety and Oklahoma Highway Patrol.
The new Kickapoo Turnpike is a 21-mile stretch that connects the Turner Turnpike to I-40. The speed limit will be 80 mph for 19 miles of the roadway.
Other speed limit hikes include the Turner in Creek County where it has six-lanes, and parts of the Muskogee, Indian Nation and Cherokee toll roads in rural parts of Oklahoma.
The OTA board also heard during its meeting that turnpike travel in June was down five percent over a year ago, attributed to decreased travel from the global pandemic. In April and May, income from tolls was in a double-digit decline.
OTA Director of Communications and Facilities Jack Damrill said it will take a couple of months to get the new signs posted for the new 80 mph speed limits.
He said that portions of the new Kickapoo Turnpike could open later this year, and all of it is scheduled to open in 2021.