Highlights of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission's Monday meeting include details about changes to the state's Move Over law going into effect in November.

Highlights of the Oklahoma Transportation Commission’s Monday meeting include details about changes to the state’s Move Over law going into effect in November.

Also, contracts were awarded for bicycle and pedestrian projects in Canadian, Oklahoma, Rogers and Tulsa counties. Road and bridge contracts were approved for I-44 and SH-11 in Tulsa County, US-81 in Canadian County, US-69 in Atoka County and I-35 in Carter, Murray and Love counties.

Secretary of Transportation and ODOT Executive Director Tim Gatz highlighted two pieces of traffic legislation that went into effect on Nov. 1. Senate Bill 89 expanded Oklahoma’s current Move Over law to require all drivers on multilane highways to change lanes when approaching a vehicle stopped on the side of the road with flashing lights on, when safe to do so. He also updated commissioners on ODOT’s ongoing effort to study speed limits on rural interstates in accordance with House Bill 1071. The new law permits, but does not mandate, speed limit increases on rural interstates and turnpikes where safe to do so if the changes are supported by engineering studies, expected to be completed early next year, and then approved by the commission or the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority board after review.

“We’re taking a very close look at the design, conditions and traffic patterns on those highways, with safety being ODOT’s No. 1 priority,” Gatz said. “Any consideration of speed limit changes on Oklahoma interstates will be centered on the safety of the traveling public.”

Commissioners also learned about the recent Oklahoma Bike Summit, which ODOT helped host for the first time this year. The event brought Oklahoma’s bicycle community together with engineers and planners to discuss goals and methods for improving safety and accessibility for all modes of transportation. Gatz noted that ODOT’s ongoing effort to add paved shoulders to rural two-lane highways will yield safety benefits for bicycle travel.

Finally, Gatz detailed the October groundbreaking of the new Gilcrease Expressway in Tulsa. The five-mile segment is being constructed by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and funded through a unique public-private partnership that includes ODOT, OTA, Indian Nations Council of Governments, City of Tulsa, Tulsa County and the Federal Highway Administration. The project will complete the western loop around Tulsa by connecting US-412 with I-44 and providing another crossing of the Arkansas River.

The commission awarded contracts for six bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure projects including sidewalks, bike routes and multi-use trails on city streets in Inola, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, as well as SH-66 in Edmond, in partnership with local governments. Commissioners approved contracts for a nearly $11 million project to replace the I-44 bridges over 33rd West Ave. and the nearly $2 million replacement of the SH-11 bridge over Dirty Butter Creek in Tulsa, as well $10 million replacement of the US-81 bridge over the Union Pacific Railroad in El Reno.

Also awarded were contracts to reconstruct nearly seven miles of US-69 near Caddo, replace more than 280 old highway signs on I-35 from the Texas state line north to Davis and perform emergency bridge repairs on SH-20 near Spavinaw following flooding damage in early October.

Commissioners voted to award 29 contracts totaling more than $82 million to improve highways, roads and bridges in 18 counties. Contracts were awarded for projects in Adair, Atoka, Beckham, Canadian, Cleveland, Coal, Grady, Grant, Greer, Mayes, McCurtain, Murray, Muskogee, Oklahoma, Pushmataha, Rogers, Seminole and Tulsa counties. A list of all awarded contracts can be found by visiting www.odot.org/contracts, selecting the October 2019 AM letting, clicking Go, then Award. A contract for an emergency repair project was also awarded and details can be found on the same webpage by selecting the October 2019 Emergency letting.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is currently studying speeds on rural interstates in accordance with House Bill 1071, which went into effect on Nov. 1. The new law permits, but does not mandate, speed limit increases on rural interstates and turnpikes if the changes are supported by engineering studies and approved by either the Oklahoma Transportation Commission or the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority board.

The nine-member Oklahoma Transportation Commission, appointed by the governor and legislative leadership to oversee the state’s transportation development, awards contracts every month for road and bridge construction.

The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 2. Contracts, bid information, the commission’s monthly agenda and project details can be viewed at www.odot.org.