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Residents Speak on City's Plan to Widen Lawton Street

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LAWTON Okla_ Some who live along 45th Street in east Lawton are frustrated with the city's plan to widen the road. In fact, some of them say they'll have to move.

City of Lawton Public Works Director Jerry Ihler said the city is planning on turning the two-lane road into five lanes with five-foot bike trails and six-foot sidewalks on each side. He said construction is still two years away, but the finished project will look similar to Flowermound Road just east of I-44.

Most residents have started to receive these right-of-way notices. Markers on the road show where the new easements will be for the affected properties. Now, most residents on the road say they're just losing a portion of their plot, but 7News met one resident who owns an at-home day care center. She said legally, she can't operate after the construction, so she will have to move.

In about three years, the narrow pot-hole riddled road along 45th Street will look more like Flowermound Road. Betsy Lawrence said those changes are forcing her and her day care out, because the law said her business has to be a certain distance from the easement. After the road is completed, that will be impossible. Surprisingly, she supports the city's decision.

"I understand improvement," Lawrence said. "This is going to help all of us. In Dallas, we say you either move over or get run over. You can not stand in the way of progress."

Lawrence said she's not going quietly; she wants the city to help move her business. Resident Harry Aucoin is not as supportive. He said the excess noise and traffic will lower his property value, not to mention the safety hazard.

"Living on the corner here, we've had several instances where cars have run up on the yard," Aucoin said. "That's my biggest concern. Several years back, I had a car hit the fence, and I had to replace it."

Ihler said he understands the residents' concerns but said this voter-approved project is long overdue.

"It does have a high-volume of traffic," Ihler said. "The condition of the roadway is not the best of conditions. Also, as I mentioned, it's an access point for kids walking to the high school and the middle school, and there's no sidewalk. So, there's the safety concern of children walking on the edge of the pavement."

"I just happen to be on some very valuable real estate here, and I realize it," Aucoin said. "Lawton realizes that, and I know they're going to do me right. I have no doubt that they're going to compensate me for this. So, the gray hair you see is not because of this. They were there before they cam through."

Ihler said that voters first approved this $10M project in 2005. Since then, the city has been able to secure funding from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to help pay for the construction.

Again, construction on the project is set to being in two years. Ihler said when construction starts, it will inevitably cause some inconvenience.

"There will be limited access, and in some areas, there may be no access off of 45th Street itself," Ihler said. "However, they all will have access to their properties from the side streets, to the east or west of 45th Street."

He said, once construction starts, it should take a year to complete.

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