The newly opened Kickapoo Turnpike has largely completed construction in the eastern part of Oklahoma County, but that construction has left many county roads in extreme disrepair. The heavy equipment and trucks that drove these roads to access construction sites have damaged roads near Luther and other smaller communities.
At a virtual town hall event in October, District 1 County Commissioner Carrie Blumert said that her office estimates the damage to the roads at over $4 million. So far, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority has only provided $1.8 million in reimbursement to the county for the damages.
Free Press spoke to Blumert by phone to learn more.
Blumert explained that when County Engineer Stacey Trumbo looked at the assessment of damage to these roads, he estimated that the cost to repair would be over $4 million. However, when Joe Echelle of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority came back to the county with an offer of reimbursement, the amount set was a hard and fast $1.8 million.
That amount of money is more than the OTA is statutorily required to provide as a reimbursement. In fact, according to a County official speaking on background, that money is practically a gift to the County, as the State is not required to reimburse for any of these costs.
All of that $1.8 million is currently being used so that District 1 road crews can repair two miles of Peebly Road. Peebly Road runs parallel to the new Turnpike, and was the road most damaged by trucks and other heavy equipment during construction.
“We worked with Mr. Echelle mostly. He was very nice about everything, and helpful, but he wouldn’t budge off of that total amount. We were told that was all the money there was for this. We took the money. I don’t know if there will be more money,” Blumert said.
She continued, “My hope is that when the Turnpike is completely open we can do another assessment of all the road damage in both District 1 and District 2 and take that damage back to the OTA to ask for help. This was a state project, but Oklahoma County is having to suffer for it.”Kickapoo-Turnpike-construction
Blumert is optimistic about the new Kickapoo Turnpike.
The 21 mile long turnpike was designed to connect I-40 with I-44, is expected to ease traffic demands for commuters traveling from northern Oklahoma County to large employers like Tinker Air Force Base. It could also ease northbound traffic that would normally use the crowded I-35 connector across the east side of Oklahoma City.
“I think the Turnpike will bring new growth to the Eastern part of Oklahoma County, similar to what we’ve seen in the western part of the County. I’m excited this Turnpike will bring growth. As a member of the Planning Commission, we plan to be strategic about that growth,” Blumert said.
Each member of the County Planning Commission, apart from Blumert, lives in unincorporated Oklahoma County.
Free Press reached out via email to Joe Echelle at the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, and to Jack Damrill, Director of Communications and Facilities at the OTA via phone. As of press time, neither had returned messages.