Oklahoma City and state officials appear to be stalled on how to make an unexpectedly dangerous intersection on the new Oklahoma City Boulevard safer before traffic signals are installed a few months from now.
After Free Press published several reports with crash data from the Oklahoma City Police Department in August and September, City officials have put engineers to work on a plan to place traffic signals at Oklahoma City Boulevard and S. Klein.
The move comes much earlier than originally planned years ago in the 20-year project to move I-40 south and use the old right-of-way for a new roadway of some sort.
Wednesday afternoon Brenda Perry with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation said that plans for that intersection were “changing daily.” She was reluctant to say much else except that their planners were working with Oklahoma City staff to find a way to make the intersection safer for now.
And, Kristy Yager, Public Information Officer for the City of Oklahoma City, said late Wednesday she was not certain what plans would be for the intersection between now and the installation of signals.
But, beyond that not much has been done to the intersection to make it safer in the interim except to move a couple of big dumpsters that were in the median nearby.
In fact, not even the yellow “Cross traffic does not stop” signs typically mounted below two-way stop signs had been installed on the stop signs on S. Klein either south or northbound by the end of the day Tuesday.
The normally responsive Eric Wenger, Director of Public Works for the City of Oklahoma City, has not responded to our numerous calls and emails asking for an update starting Friday and continuing into this week.
Signals are certain
Free Press interviewed Wenger by phone Sept. 27 about plans for signals at the intersection.
Wenger was clear that the city is now fully committed to installing signals at the intersection as soon as they can engineer, order equipment, and install them.
“We are actively already engaging a consultant, a traffic consultant actually to begin that design now,” he said.
Wenger said they already have an agenda item ready to put on the Traffic Commission agenda for October 21 for their approval, but they were not waiting that long.
Instead, once the consultant determines what equipment and poles are needed the poles will be ordered as quickly as possible because that is the part of the project that could take the longest.
Wenger told us that the poles sometimes have to be custom-made to fit a particular intersection, and so there is manufacturing production time that has to be figured into any timetable.
The intersections along the boulevard currently not signalized “…weren’t expected to have as much traffic, and that a signal would be premature,” Wenger told us about the early days of planning.
“So I will just tell you, we’re just accelerating that at Klein, sooner than anticipated years ago, but it is underway,” he said.
According to Wenger, they always had plans to monitor the intersection at OKC Boulevard and Klein and install signals when development drew more traffic into the area. But development has happened sooner than expected.
“I mean, whether it be 21c [hotel], the residences, whether it’s some of the things that we’ve seen on Klein, like … StarSpace46 [co-working space], whether we see the farmers market start to grow here very soon…,” said Wenger.
“We’re absolutely prepared to make even additional city project-based changes that are not known today. So we’re going to need to look at that closely. And yes, that will happen.”
Raising the alarm
Free Press broke the news Aug. 22 that there had been two auto crashes where Klein intersects with Oklahoma City Boulevard within the first 48 hours of the new street’s opening.
We started inquiring about the intersection when we came upon and photographed emergency crews responding to a crash at the intersection the day before.
On September 19, we reported that crashes were continuing at a steady pace there making the intersection a dangerous hot spot for auto collisions far outpacing any other intersection along the complete length of the boulevard.
Then, after photographing another crash scene at the intersection, we broke the news Sept. 23 that the City of Oklahoma City was changing and speeding up plans to signalize the two-way stop intersection.
In response to the added attention to the problem, the Oklahoma City Police Department deployed their motorcycle traffic unit to monitor the west end of the boulevard at several intersections according to OKCPD PIO Sgt. Megan Morgan.
Since our Sept 23 report, The Oklahoman and several TV stations have covered developments about the dangerous intersection.
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