MEDICINE PARK, OK (KSWO) -State Highway 49, near Medicine Park, is getting a much needed facelift as part of a multi-million dollar construction project.
Workers are adding shoulders and resurfacing the existing driving lanes, so the section from the Highway 58 junction to the east entrance of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge will be reduced to one lane for the next several weeks.
Getting through the construction zone means taking things slow; you simply have to take turns. On each end of the project, you have to wait a few minutes until a construction vehicle arrives and escorts you safely through during daylight hours. At night, when the crews aren't working, the road will be open to two-way traffic.
Medicine Park Public Works Director Ken Morrow says even though people are frustrated about adding more time to their drive, they just need to be patient.
"I'd say it's well worth it. Not only that, when they come out to Medicine Park in the mountains it's always worth it, you know. A little bit of extra time. You know you shouldn't be in that big of a hurry anyway," Morrow said.
Morrow says the new shoulders will give bicyclists a safe place to ride and motorists with car trouble a way to pull over.
"Motor vehicles can pull over to the side of the road without worrying if they are going to get stuck in the ditch or, you know, on certain areas there it's a drop off…so it's going to be a lot safer for motorists," Morrow said.
Morrow says a side benefit to the road project is that the crews will also build up the sides of the town's sewage lagoon to prevent its contents from escaping.
"They're helping us with backfill along the lagoon frontage. It's got some seepage and we are trying to get it to flow better so it is all working out for the town," Morrow said.
Workers are also building culverts under where the new shoulders will sit to help with drainage and minimize the chances of water covering the road.
Morrow says the construction is helping with town revenue because the workers come to Medicine Park to eat lunch while they're working.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is partnering with the Federal Highway Administration on the $3.5 million dollar project.
All the work is expected to be complete by the middle of the summer.