The Rogers County Commission is vying for funds available in the next few years to construct an overpass near Oologah.

If the county receives the funds, to be available in 2010, the Oologah-Talala area would see an overpass over the railroad tracks leading to Will Rogers Birthplace.

District 2 Commissioner Mike Helm initiated the proposed project, and on Monday, the commission voted to make application for Surface Transportation Program funds made available by the state.

This overpass would benefit drivers in the Oologah-Talala area in two ways, according to Helm.

“This overpass will allow drivers off (Highway) 169 to access Will Rogers Birthplace without backing up traffic,” Helm said. “Those drivers will only have one stop to Will Rogers Birthplace.

“It will also help drivers when there is a train parked on the tracks. When the overpass is there, the trains will be able to stay stopped on tracks longer without affecting traffic.”

According to Helm, the two-mile long trains periodically stop at the Public Service Company of Oklahoma plant in Oologah, as well as Mid-America Feeds in Talala to load and unload cargo. Once stopped and loaded or unloaded, Helm said it can sometimes take 20 to 30 minutes for the trains to start moving again, causing traffic headaches.

“We wanted an option. We wanted to be for the trains, not against them,” he said. “In five years when PSO expands, which means more trains, we will be ahead of the game, unlike Claremore.”

Currently, the city of Claremore is trying to remedy its own traffic problems that stem from several trains that run through the city each day. An elevated track has been the latest project discussed by city officials.

On the county side, providing direct access to Will Rogers Birthplace via the overpass will accommodate thousands of visitors per month, Helm said.

According to Helm, the overpass would begin at EW 36 Road, between Oologah and Talala, cross the railroad tracks and a creek, and travel in a diagonal direction to EW 38, between Highway 169 (NS 410 Road) and NS 411 Road. Will Rogers Birthplace is located on EW 38.

Currently, Guy Engineering Services, Inc., is working on a preliminary plan to accompany the county’s application for the STP funding. In compiling the plan, Helm said the engineering firm would conduct traffic studies and determine the historical value it would bring to the area.

Even though the county is making application for the funds now, the state will not award the money until February.

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