Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, city of Jenks partner on $18 million roads project
JENKS - A new $18 million roads project in Jenks will upgrade safety, improve motorists' convenience and facilitate access to a proposed outlet mall in the city.
"It's going to be amazing," Mayor Kelly Dunkerley said at a Wednesday news conference announcing the upgrades. "It's going to open up our city for development. We couldn't be more excited."
The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and city of Jenks officials are partnering on the project.
In 2013, municipal voters approved a bond initiative that devoted $7.5 million to develop and upgrade the interchanges at the Creek Turnpike and Jenks intersections. The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority appropriated an additional $10,588,000 to expand the interchange at the Creek Turnpike and Elm Street.
The collaborative projects will build and improve frontage roads on both sides of the Creek Turnpike to connect Elm Street and Lewis Avenue south of the Creek Turnpike to the Oklahoma Aquarium at Aquarium Drive. The plan includes a "Texas turnaround" on the east side of Elm that will eliminate an existing bank of signal lights.
Also part of the project is all-electronic tolling, OTA Executive Director Tim Stewart said. A total of 88 percent of motorists who exit the Creek Turnpike use a Pikepass. For those who don't, all-electronic tolling takes pictures of license plates and sends invoices in the mail, eliminating the need for coin catchers at the interchange, Stewart said.
"People always talk about how much easier it will be," City Manager Mike Tinker said. "But it's safety. People do a lot of quick lane changes, and they are searching for change. It will really mitigate a lot of the issues that come with the coin baskets."
A portion of construction began Sept. 28, and interchange expansion is scheduled to start this month. OTA officials expect to complete the Creek Turnpike-Elm Street improvements by March 2017. Jenks estimates completion of its portion of the projects by December 2016. Sherwood Construction is the general contractor for the projects.
"There's a demand," Stewart said. "There is economic development occurring along this corridor, and Jenks has captured and led that vision."
Jenks is the fastest-growing city in Oklahoma, expanding by 6.8 percent during the one-year period ending July 1, 2014, according to the Census Bureau's annual city population estimates report. Jenks grew by 1,264 people to 19,951 residents during the one-year period.
"People who live here have to turn around and buy some very basic things," Tinker said. "It comes to back-to-school time, and we have to send all that out of town. We love the metro area and all of our neighbors, but we certainly like to keep our folks here in town to shop."
In January, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation announced a $22 million entertainment complex that will be built at the RiverWalk Crossing in Jenks.
Also, real estate giant Simon Premium Outlets announced last month that it was making Jenks the home of an outlet mall after the company considered a venue near Turkey Mountain in Tulsa. The site of the mall, scheduled to open in summer 2017, will benefit directly from the proposed road upgrades.
"Simon was aware of us when they selected Turkey Mountain," Tinker said. "The road was not on the schedule they wanted. Things didn't go well at Turkey Mountain, and I actually think that played better for us.
"I think we're a very good site. With this access, it's a magnificent place. Sometimes, the stars just align, I guess."
By RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer3