Their rationale is that our vibrant arts community has limited area for expansion; making it unlikely that it could develop in Bricktown or the much-beloved Paseo District. The center of interest for a “new Santa Fe” is in the Market District with the Farmers Public Market as the hub.
There is ample room for art studios, glass and pottery manufacturing, art galleries, apartments above studios, cafes, pubs and diners. Coupled with the findings of the Market District Redevelopment Plan, a study generated by local firm Studio Architecture, this goal appears to be viable.
But the dagger in the heart of that dream is the threat of another mile-long elevated highway from Pennsylvania Avenue to just past Western, with a bridge over Western. The question is raised: For whom are we building the proposed downtown boulevard?
Before we can realize any redevelopment dreams, we must deal with the serious issues that are now before us. Most citizens do not want the boulevard elevated and once again dividing the city. Friends for a Better Boulevard (FBB) has challenged the legitimacy of the federal review process undertaken by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the City of Oklahoma City with regard to the statement that the boulevard is to be a throughway as a bypass for Interstate 40.
The nearly $100 million project, which is being paid for with federal funding, is subject to compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Earlier this year, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) officials ordered additional reviews and public scoping to ensure the project meets all NEPA regulations.
However, recent statements and information provided to the public by city and state officials indicate there are serious problems with the way in which the federal review process is being handled.
The city told Stantec Engineering — the firm hired by the city to review the boulevard — that the record of decision between OKC, FHWA and ODOT stipulated the boulevard is to be built as a bypass for I-40, a thoroughfare built as a federal mandate. Simply put, this requirement is not factual. There is no federal law requiring ODOT to construct a boulevard through Oklahoma City to serve as a bypass in the event I-40 is shut down.
FBB needs your help in letting the FHWA know your opinion, whether it is for an elevated highway or a boulevard on the surface that is integrated into the existing street grid.
It is important that OKC residents express their view to the FHWA. They are listening.
Please write to: Elizabeth A. Romero, Planning and Technical Services Team Leader, Federal Highway Administration – Oklahoma Division, 5801 N. Broadway Extension, Suite 300, Oklahoma City, OK 73118.
Kemper is founder of Friends for a Better Boulevard.