Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Streets bill delayed over widening bickering

The $2 billion package to fix Tulsa's streets hit a snag (I refuse to say it hit a pothole) over the issue of street widening projects included in the bill.

According to the article, these are the widening projects included in the bill:

They include 81st Street South from Sheridan Road to Memorial Drive, Mingo Road from 71st Street South to 81st Street South, 91st Street South from Memorial Drive to Mingo Road, 81st Street South from Harvard Avenue to Yale Avenue and 91st Street South from Harvard Avenue to Yale Avenue.

Ok, let's take a look.

81st from Harvard to Yale is one lane in each direction, but it's hardly ever congested. 81st from Sheridan to Memorial could do with another lane in each direction. Mingo from 71st to 81st I'm not that familiar with, but I think it probably gets somewhat congested with Mall traffic. 91st from Harvard to Yale probably needs another lane also. I don't really know a lot about 91st from Memorial to Mingo.

But here's the crux of the problem: all of these roads are in fine shape - they don't need to be repaired. And isn't that the main purpose of the bill?

Several things occur to me. First, I'm a little tired of South Tulsa getting so much of the attention when it comes to street widening and repairs. Midtown streets are a moonscape. Instead of fixing the streets in Midtown, last year Tulsa spent millions of dollars demolishing a hill at 81st and Delaware to widen 81st street to four lanes - because of the PGA Golf tour (or was it the LPGA? I don't remember - whatever, I hate golf.)

So Tulsa's priority at that time was to make a comfortable drive for the tourists coming into town for a golf tournament.

Meanwhile, the streets in Midtown continue to deteriorate.

Now, this bill suggests even more widening in South Tulsa. I'm sorry, but these areas should NOT be the priority.

Why the residents of Midtown aren't in the street with torches and pitchforks over this issue is beyond me. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had to spend hundreds of dollars replacing prematurely destroyed tires, whose car needs hundreds of dollars worth of work on its shocks, whose teeth get knocked out every time I cross the intersection of 31st and Harvard heading north.

Councilor Bill Martinson, who has been opposed to including widening in the bill, proposed several other areas of town for widening:

Yale Avenue from 21st Street South to 31st Street South, Lewis Avenue from 51st Street South to 61st Street South, 51st Street South from Yale Avenue to Sheridan Road, 51st Street South from Sheridan Road to Memorial Drive and 61st Street South from Peoria Avenue to Lewis Avenue.

Now, Yale from 21st to 31st probably needs widening, Lewis is already 2 lanes in each direction but it does get congested, 51st definitely gets congested and could probably use another lane in each direction, and 61st street could definitely use it.

But again, none of these things should be a priority.

The priority, Mayor Taylor, is to FIX THE STREETS. FIX them. Not WIDEN them. We don't need MORE moonscapes to drive on, we need NO moonscapes.

Whatever the case, as long as the project includes enough money to fix Midtown, I'll vote for the project. I would prefer if it didn't also have money in it to widen streets in South Tulsa that don't need it.