Interchange work nears completion
Sallisaw residents may be in for a Christmas present with the completion of the Interstate 40 interchange project at the east end of Sallisaw.
Although he couldn't guarantee it, Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) District 1 Engineer Chris Wallace, said the $42.5 million project could be completed by Christmas. The project is in the cleanup stage at this point. In addition to the interchange work, a number of bridges have been replaced on the interstate and U.S. Highway 64.
Wallace was addressing members of the Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce Wednesday at the chamber's monthly membership luncheon.
Due to changes in funding, Wallace said although the department is in the process of moving utilities along U.S. 59 north, that widening project has been rescheduled due to changes in funding. The $12 million project was scheduled for 2021 but has been pushed back to 2023.
Scheduled for two to three months away, Wallace said a bridge replacement over Sallisaw Creek on Interstate 40 will cost an estimated $7.6 million. Other local projects include a $2.3 million project on U.S. 64 at the east end of the county, scheduled for 2021, and a $5.4 million project on Interstate 40, also on the east end of the county, scheduled for 2022. A $17 million project for Interstate 40, from Vian to the west, is slated for 2028.
Wallace said ODOT is also looking at an interchange project on Interstate 40 and U.S. 59 south that is coming up soon.
“We're looking at replacing the bridge and see how we can help traffic on the south side with access into and out of the industrial park.” Wallace said, adding that with the cemetery and airport located in that area there is no place to put in a road.
With a grin on his face, Wallace said one concept ODOT is looking at is a roundabout for the interchange. “We would have a public meeting as it gets closer. We're not going to force it on anybody. If everybody doesn't want one, we're not going to build it,” he said. Currently, there are no roundabouts on the Oklahoma highway system.
District 1, which includes Sequoyah County, has about 1,100 of what Wallace called centerline roads. However, he said ODOT has been focused on bridge replacement the last eight years, but will soon start identifying pavement projects. The ODOT operates on an eight-year plan for roads and highways.
Once a project is chosen, Wallace said it goes to the design stage and plans are reviewed, followed by virtual public meetings.
Wallace said District 1 has 191 employees in transportation maintenance, 10 county and two interstate maintenance yards and two construction maintenance offices. The district has $28 million in specialty equipment and a $10 million payroll. Capital outlay in 2021 will be $75.5 million and drop to $67.3 million in 2022.
In 2010, Wallace became District 1 traffic engineer and then resident engineer at the Muskogee residency. In 2012, he served as the construction engineer for District 1 until appointed to his current position in November 2016.
Wallace oversees all maintenance and construction projects on highways and interstates in Sequoyah, Adair, Cherokee, Haskell, McIntosh, Muskogee, Okmulgee and Wagoner counties in eastern Oklahoma.