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Berryhill community voicing concerns about tolls on Gilcrease Expressway

Posted at 10:36 PM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 11:14:18-04

BERRYHILL, Okla. — A community meeting was cut short after outraged residents in Berryhill spoke up about a new toll road. They say they’re frustrated about a one-mile stretch of road in the area that will soon become part of the Gilcrease Expressway. When it's done, they will have to pay for a road they never had to before.

The meeting was planned for 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, but it ended an hour early after residents began shouting and walking out.

“People are frustrated. People aren’t getting any answers. We’re getting the run-around,” resident of Berryhill, Megan Elliot said.

The concern is over a one-mile stretch of road from west 41st street to west 51st street. It is free to use, but soon it will become part of the Gilcrease Expressway.

Before the meeting, the deputy director for the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, Joe Echelle, said their aim Tuesday night was to answer questions and talk about how the project would be financed. He says it comes down to financing plans that go back decades.

“We don’t have the ability to borrow money, in this case through a TIF loan of $120 million that we need to pay back. We also put an additional $125 million of Turnpike Authority cash into this project in order to deliver it.”

Echelle says the toll at 41st street is needed to help pay off the project and there’s no way to exclude it from the rest of the turnpike. Still, those within the Berryhill community are making sure their voices are being heard.

“The best thing we can do right now is to keep pressure on them and let them know that you guys work for us. So you guys got to do something for us,” resident of Berryhill, Frank Mason said.

The tolls will be cashless and paid either through a pike-pass or by the pay-plate program. Rates will be decided on May 24.

Residents say they’re expecting traffic to increase on other routes. However, they say most of the roads on those routes are in poor condition and even dangerous in some areas. OTA also addressed that issue. They say they plan to work with the city to rehabilitate those roads.

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