By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — At the beginning of the new year, the City of Norman can expect to start undergoing some changes.
City officials expect construction to begin in January on the Main Street interchange and Canadian River bridge. The lowest bid was awarded last month for the construction on the Main Street bridge, which will be completely replaced.
“It only happens every 50 years,” said Shawn O’Leary, director of public works for the city. “It’s pretty significant.”
The bid was approved at $29 million and will be a joint venture between two firms which O’Leary said was “unique.” The two firms working on the project will be Manhattan Road and Bridge and Allen Construction.
The structure is currently a cloverleaf interchange but it will be replaced with a single point urban interchange (SPUI). There is only one other SPUI in Oklahoma that has just been finished in recent months on I-40 and Morgan Road in west Oklahoma City.
“It’s safe, it’s efficient, it handles traffic well and it’s actually cheaper,” O’Leary said.
Since the bridge has two structures, he said during construction of it they will be able to keep traffic flowing on one structure while the other is being worked on. Of course, that’s not without saying that the construction will be disruptive to interstate travelers and inner city travelers he said.
“Like any major construction project there will be certain lanes out of service at certain times,” O’Leary said.
He said he expects the project to take approximately 18 months.
Canadian River bridge:
The second project expected to begin in January involves the widening of the Canadian River bridge. It is currently an eight-lane bridge that will be turned into 10 lanes.
The bid for that project was awarded to Sherwood Construction Company at $15 million. O’Leary said this project should be fairly simpler and less disruptive because there are multiple lanes involved.
“Essentially we’re just adding one lane on each side of the existing bridges,” he said. “It’s a little simpler in scope but it’s still a major project.”
O’Leary said the proximity of the Main Street project to the Canadian River bridge project is about one mile so the two construction zones will really be merged together into one large construction zone.
“We’re doing everything we can to minimize inconvenience,” he said.
The Highway Commission and the City of Norman are working closely with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to try to minimize as much inconvenience as possible he said.
This project will also take approximately 18 months he said.
While many people may be more concerned about the possible closure of Lindsey Street in the future, O’Leary said they are still about three years out from that portion of the project.
“Lindsey will be the last of all the interchanges to be completed,” he said.
However, since the bridge on Lindsey Street is only one structure, it would be much more feasible to take the whole thing out of service. It wouldn’t be like the Main Street bridge that has two structures, allowing traffic to continue to flow while still under construction.
“That’s one of the challenges ODOT and its design team is facing,” he said. “We’re exploring every opportunity to keep that from happening.”
O’Leary said, of course, they wouldn’t like to have the bridge out of service at all because it will affect citizens and merchants of Norman but they are still several months away from making that decision.
For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.