Claremore Daily Progress

September 17, 2013

Partnership to develop plan for Rt. 66, State Hwy. 20 alignment

Staff Reports
Claremore Progress

CLAREMORE —

Claremore City Manager Jim Thomas and Oklahoma Department of Transportation Division 8 Engineer Randle White met with the Rogers County Builders Association and city department officials Monday to discuss a developing plan to link Rt. 66 to State Highway 20. 
In a meeting with Deputy Chief Engineer Gary Evans in December 2012, Thomas introduced the concept of elevating the railroad track at Country Club Road, perpendicular to Walmart, and having traffic go underneath, eventually meeting E. 500 Road before heading north to Highway 20.
“I wanted to keep our attention to traffic near Wal-Mart and the Claremore Plaza area, but also keep traffic in the downtown area,” said Thomas. 
Claremore and ODOT originally had a plan to build a railroad overpass in the downtown area to include a clover leaf intersection.
The City of Claremore ended up spending upwards of $1 million in the development of plans and eventually did not go through with them. During that time, Claremore was able to obtain more than $30 million in federal money for the track elevation, said Thomas.
“The decision was made to scrap that idea from a financial standpoint, aesthetic standpoint and the fact that the public wasn’t supportive of the idea.”
He said the city is “picking up 100 percent of the tab” for a new environmental assessment along Highway 66 from Archer Drive to Country Club and then north to Highway 20. The estimated cost will be about $300,000.
“The planned route will end up taking out some properties in the developed neighborhood, north of W. Country Club Road, and we will need to take about 30 feet off the top of the hill,” said Thomas. “An ODOT transportation commission will conduct the environmental assessment, which will take between 18 months and two years to complete.
“The goal is to identify environment issues, for example as an Native American burial ground or endangered species and move alignment to accomodate in the best way possible,” said White. 
RCBA members raised some questions, including adding a new bypass from 66  for traffic going to Pryor. One concerned member said “it sounds like (officials) are just moving the traffic jam by the Indian Hospital and college to the Country Club intersection.”
“We’ve paid $55,000 to ODOT engineers to have the tie in with 66 looked at, and we are confident in their decision to move forward with the plans,” said Thomas. “Traffic going to Pryor would have to come through Claremore, hopefully leading to more money being spent in Claremore. We could ultimately tie in I-44 with Highway 20 going to Pryor, but that would take away my goal of the economic tie-in with Claremore.”
Thomas said the $30 million obtained for the original railroad elevation is still able to be used, but not until after environmental studies have been made to the alignment.
Several public meetings will be organized to discuss further plans for the assessment, as well as, dates and amounts for the entire project. 
Specific dates for the meetings have not yet been announced.