CALERA – Many changes have been made to U.S. Highways 69/75 in and around Calera during the past 15-20 years to try to make travel safer and the roadway more easily used.
With the awarding of a significant federal grant, the state of Oklahoma is now in the process of going beyond small fixes to address many issues in one large project.
And although the process is already underway, there is still time for Calera and Bryan County citizens to express their thoughts to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation about the upcoming work.
Last week, ODOT held a public meeting at the Calera High School gymnasium to present the proposed alignment of the road and proposed upgrades (watch the animated video presentation), while also receiving public input of these issues.
In July 2016, the state of Oklahoma was awarded a FASTLANE (Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies) grant in the amount of $62 million. This grant is to be used on the four-mile segment of 69/75 from Chickasaw road north to the U.S. Highway 70 bypass.
Annahlyse Meyer, spokesperson for ODOT, said much of the initial work has been completed.
“To this point, when we present the proposed improvements, we’ve already done the environmental impact studies and a lot of research and designed a roadway that fits those constraints,” Meyer said. “What we want to hear from the public is if there are things that we aren’t aware of.
“Are we going to be building over a gas line if we build here? Are there suggestions that they have that could improve access in the city? And we take those into consideration and see if they fit with the overall design and within the constraints of still meeting federal requirements for roadways.”
Meyer said there were only 18 recipients of these FASTLANE grants from 200 applications throughout the United States. The $62 million award for the project through Calera was the third-largest given.
The estimated cost of the completed project is $120 million. Although the grant covers just more than half of that amount, Meyer said the rest will be taken care of as well without additional taxes.
“That comes from a mixture of state and other federal funding,” Meyer said.
“We have an eight-year construction work plan that we update. Yearly we review based on projected funding and we schedule projects. Road projects take time to get moving.
“All of our projects are planned on projected state and federal funding.”
And with that there are time constraints as well.
“For the federal grant, we have a certain amount of time in which to use that,” Meyer said. “So we are trying to move very quickly on this project in order to use those federal funds. Without those federal funds, this project can’t happen.”
Right-of-way and utility relocation work is scheduled to begin in 2018, so the solicitation of public input is important to receive now. And the public can let ODOT know about any issues.
“We look at all the public input and we do consider it all very seriously and we look at all of that within the grand scheme of the plan – how that will fit in with what needs to happen in this roadway to make it safe for the traveling public.”
There are utilities to be relocated by the Town of Calera and with the proposals to the roadway, there are still right-of-way purchases to be made by the state.
Meyer also said that considering the magnitude of the project, there is very minimal right-of-way that will need to be purchased.
Calera and Bryan County citizens still have the opportunity to voice concerns and offer suggestions, even if they were not at the meeting on June 15.
There are comment forms from ODOT at Town Hall in Calera that can be picked up to be filled out and mailed or faxed.
Also, forms are available online that can be filled out and submitted via the internet. These forms can be found at odot.org/publicmeetings. Under the description column, click on US-69, then click on Comment Form.
Forms must be submitted by July 5, 2017.