OWASSO, Okla. - The project to construct an overpass for 116th Street North over U.S. Highway 75 just north of Tulsa begins Monday.
Presently, north and southbound drivers on US-75 passing through the now 2-way stop intersection see signs warning them that US-75 access to 116th Street will be closed for approximately nine months beginning Monday.
According to Oklahoma Department of Transportation spokesperson Kenna Mitchell, work crews begin closing both east and westbound lanes of 116th Street North at the intersection Monday for the $7 million project.
Upon completion in the fall, the new intersection with the bridge will feature on and off ramps and merging lanes – ODOT's latest attempt to make the intersection safer as the intersection has seen many accidents, several of them fatalities.
Claudetta Bruner lives within shouting distance of the intersection. Bruner can see the highway from her home on North Yale. She said she advises her friends and family to avoid the intersection because of the number of crashes she's seen in her 25 years of living on North Yale. Bruner once heard a crash from inside her home.
"You can't describe it. It's heart wrenching when you hear anything like that. And you hear the ambulances and the fire trucks and all. So you know that somebody is probably hurt," she said.
Another Owasso resident who's seen tragic crashes at the intersection is Daniel Farragher. He lives on 166th Street. He said pervious attempts to alert drivers to the dangers surrounding the intersection failed.
"They put stop signs, blinking lights, signs on 75, signs on 116th and it, it doesn't help. There's a wreck there every week or so it seems like," he said.
Lieutenant George Brown, spokesperson for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, said his department has responded to 30 injury crashes in the area in the last couple of years, including three fatal crashes.
He urges commuters to be aware of machinery and personnel moving in and out of the construction zone.
"We want people to know there will be heavy equipment such as road graders and dump trucks in and out of the area, so be aware of the movement of equipment and more importantly, personnel -- construction workers," he said.
Mitchell asks drivers who regularly use the intersection to access US 75 or 116th Street North to plan ahead and locate an alternate route. Drivers can access the highway by using N. Yale Avenue, which intersects with East 126th Street North and East 106th Street North – both of which intersect US-75.
Bruner hopes the changes will mean lives saved just a few yards behind her home.
"I would hope that it would be a lot safer and you know the traffic can flow a little better without being so dangerous," she said.
While there are no closures on US-75 at this time, Mitchell said drivers should expect to slow down as a 55 mph speed limit will be set in place for the duration of the project.
"We ask drivers to follow the posted speed limit and pay attention," she said.