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Understanding Tulsa street projects impacting local businesses, drivers

Posted at 5:45 PM, Nov 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 14:07:11-05

TULSA, Okla. — Tulsa street projects are becoming a concern to local business owners and their customers as city crews race to finish road work surrounding them.

"I try to remain calm, because there's nothing I can do about it," Tammy Alexander told us.

She says she navigated through the road work along 71st Street, to get to her first appointment at the S Salon.

"I needed to get my hair done so I decided to brave it and come on, but it does make you think twice."

The salon's owner Janice Reed says she's grateful that another two-year project near her business just finished up — the much-needed widening of Mingo between 71st and 81st.

"There's been a dramatic transformation," Reed says. "I'm really thankful for everything they've done, it definitely makes it easier access to get in and out."

Ryan McKaskle, Field Engineering Manager for the City of Tulsa says most street projects are a significant logistical undertaking with a lot of moving parts as the city oversees all of the work.

"The schedule is up to the contractor until he turns it over as a complete project," McKaskle says.

"I can understand the frustration."

McKaskle told the 2 News Oklahoma Problem Solvers that the current projects came during a pandemic causing material and labor shortages, manufacturing and supply chain issues. General contractors and sub-contractors are affected by COVID-19 at various times during projects which can diminish crew performance and delay completion.

"I try to make trips out to some of our major projects to see what some of the ongoing issues are and some of the complaints are," McKaskle says.

He says the city tries to stay away from telling contractors how to do their work, as long they're following guidelines and timeframes set out in the contract.

Still, if lanes are closed for no apparent reason, for example, the city can sometimes penalize contractors up to $2,500 a day per lane closure.

"I apologize for any delays you may experience, it's our intent to open roadways as fast as possible," McKaskle says.

Back at the S Salon, Tammy Alexander says she tries to find ways around those projects, if possible.

"I believe it's needed, it's necessary, so I just try to deal with it."

There are many details regarding street projects, so McKaskle gave answers to some of the most common concerns.

Here are the questions, and his answers:

What goes into setting up work schedules for individual street projects, as they are being done?

Sequence of construction is typically laid out by the Engineer of Record in the bid documents. This is a recommended sequence. Occasionally the contractor, based on crews, subcontractors, etc., will recommend a change to the sequence. These are reviewed by the City and Engineer of Record to make sure it doesn’t impact the design.

Most projects are calendar day projects with the bulk of work required to occur Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. The contractor is permitted to work weekends on items that don’t necessarily require inspection (haul off, prepare form work, etc.)

What can be done to lessen the frustration for drivers as these projects seem to be all over the city?

These projects were voted on in the bond packages of Improve Our Tulsa I & II as well as the Fix Our Streets. We are attempting to catch many of these streets as a rehabilitation before they become in too much disrepair and entail a full reconstruct. Typically, a shorter duration at less cost to extend the life of the roadway.

From a frustration standpoint most of these projects can take anywhere from six months to two years to construct. We ask that motorists consider both their safety as well as the safety of the workers on-site when traveling through a construction corridor, knowing that the construction is a short duration to enjoy the roadway for 20-30 years to come.

Who tracks what work needs to be done in different areas, and sets the schedule as to when certain projects will be done?

This depends on the type of work. We have an infrastructure planning group, working with the operations groups to identify where project needs are.

For example, traffic operations may see the need for a roadway widening due to growth in a certain area. Street maintenance may see a need based on the condition of the existing pavement (Pavement Condition Index, PCI). This will decide reconstruct vs a mill patch and overlay.

Water, sewer, storm all also play a role in the projects, maybe they are standalone or become a part of a roadway project.

We try to maintain a minimum of a mile separation between projects on our arterial roadways to minimize disruption to the traveling public. Sometimes projects have been backlogged due to waiting on private utilities (PSO, ONG, Cox, Windstream, etc) to be relocated prior to our construction projects. Beginning a project without private utilities out of the way creates delays to our contractors oftentimes impacting the overall construction duration. This is typically a coordination process that takes place prior to the city advertising a project.

With many utilities buried underground, oftentimes utilities once thought to be clear end up being in conflict when we begin excavation.

How can drivers let the city know about their concerns and questions?

For information related to specific project status we recommend citizens contact either 311 (from a 918 area code), or the contact information provided at the specific project pre-construction public meetings. At the public meetings, we will provide the contact for the inspector and contractor’s superintendent for the specific project.

Here are some examples of details that go into a bid and contract for a typical city street project:

Work Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Traffic Control: All work shall be done in cooperation with the City to establish, install, maintain and operate complete, adequate and safe traffic control during the entire construction period. Barricades, signs, lights, flags and all other traffic control devices shall meet the requirements and specifications of the Standard Drawings entitled "Typical Applications of Traffic Control Devices"

Local and through traffic shall be maintained at all times through the project unless otherwise permitted by the Engineer. All public and private streets shall be accessible at all times. All detours, horizontal traffic movements, etc. are directly related to the sequence of work; therefore, the Contractor shall proceed with his construction operation in conformity with the details shown on the plans and as required by this special provision.

Two lanes shall remain open to traffic, one in each direction, throughout all phases of construction, unless otherwise approved/directed by the Engineer. Left turn lanes shall remain open to traffic throughout all phases of construction unless otherwise approved/directed by the Engineer. Transitions from pavement elevations through construction areas to access driveways or intersections shall be the Contractor's responsibility. The Contractor shall maintain signs and markings on a continuous basis.

The Contractor shall commence work within 24 hours of traffic control devices being established at the project location. If the Contractor shall fail to commence work within 24 hours of traffic control devices being established at the project location, then the Contractor agrees to pay the City, not as a penalty, but as liquidated damages for such breach of contract, the sum of One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00) per lane for each day of failure to commence work after the specified time set forth. The amount is fixed and agreed upon because of the impracticability and extreme difficulty of fixing and ascertaining the actual damage the City would in such event sustain.

See this full story WEDNESDAY on 2 News Oklahoma at 10 p.m.

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