An Oklahoma Department of Transportation plan calls for re-routing US 69 from its present location down 32nd Street to the west side of Muskogee, with only two on-ramps and exits inside city limits, according to Cody Boyd, spokesman for ODoT.
The ramps would be at Okmulgee Ave. and north of town almost to the river. A third ramp would be at the current Summit exit south of town.
“None of the details of this plan are final,” Boyd said, “But the plan to realign the highway is pretty much set in stone.”
Muskogee Mayor Bob Coburn isn’t happy with the plan, revealed to the city around two months ago.
“There are millions of dollars of investment on 69 highway,” he said today. “We have something like 600 or 700 new hotel rooms that have been built around the intersection of 69 and Shawnee, a multimillion-dollar Quik Trip and numerous other businesses that opened in that area with no understanding whatsoever that this highway is being considered for moving.”
Boyd says the businesses are part of the consideration for the change.
“We’re hoping to get not much farther than a mile away from the existing location,” he said, noting that the map above is not to scale and just a preliminary suggestion for the new construction’s location. “We can’t build where the highway exists now because we can’t buy all the right-of-ways. Muskogee is one of the only cities built up this close to the highway. Our planning and forecasting shows most of the traffic on that highway is from commercial trucks and semis with no destination in Oklahoma.”
From Texas to Kansas, Muskogee is the most-developed city nestled right next to the highway, he said. Though Durant and McAlester are similar, if smaller, their relationship with 69 is more like an interstate than a highway with numerous intersections and traffic signals, with more development in McAlester planned to increase that aesthetic, making the highway a full freeway between Calera and Durant.
“We don’t want traffic totally bypassing Muskogee,” Boyd said. “We are trying to clear up congestion in the city, and our goal is that the highway serves businesses better in town than it does now, but safety is our number one concern.”
US 69 is the deadliest highway in the state, according to a company that provides fleet management software and vehicle traffic devices, averaging 13 fatal crashes per year, with more than 150 over the past decade.
“By this time next year, we hope to have public meetings scheduled,” Boyd said. “It’s very early in the process, and we understand it’s a big change and will affect people, homes and businesses with their plans for the future and now.”
Coburn isn’t budging, however.
“I am totally against this idea,” he said. “This will drastically impact the commerce that’s being done in Muskogee.”