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Bridge and highway improvements coming

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - The Oklahoma Department of Transportation says planned highway and bridge improvements across Southwest Oklahoma will make traveling safer and easier for everyone.

Their eight-year, $6.4 billion plan to improve highway roads and bridges was approved on Monday.  More than $630 million of that will be spent in a 9-county area in Southwest Oklahoma. The money has already been budgeted for nearly 80 projects, including upgrades to Highway 7 in Lawton, Highway 29 near Marlow and much more.

One particular project will replace the bridge on Highway 7 you cross East Cache Creek, just before hitting I-44. That is one of the spots where the creek overtook the road during the floods the past couple of years, but this will not solve that problem, as they are only replacing the westbound side because of problems with the pavement.

Another improvement will include putting up an eight-foot-tall chain-link fence along I-44 between Lee and Gore, an area that people frequently attempt to cross the highway. Just up the road, the bridge at Rogers Lane and I-44 will be getting a complete overhaul.

"Right now you have a lot of stopped movements at the ramps,” Oklahoma Department of Transportation Division Engineer Jay Earp said. “So we're hoping to have a continuous free-flowing movement at each of the ramps where you'll be able to get on and off the interstate, and be able to free-flow onto Rogers Lane and off of Rogers Lane more easily than you are now."

Earp said in the nine counties covered by district 7, ranging from Comanche to Caddo to Carter counties and everything in between, there are more than 500 miles of two-lane highways that have no shoulder, which is something they are now working to fix.

"As your meeting a vehicle at night on a two-lane road with no shoulder, it gives you a bit of an uneasy feeling,” Earp said. “A lot of times you'll want to scoot over on the shoulder if it has one. So we hope to upgrade a lot of our facilities to add shoulders and then fix the hills and valleys and curves on those roadways.”

Earp said there are 18 bridges currently in use in district 7 that are categorized as structurally deficient with several more being at risk of being structurally deficient. He said because many of those are being replaced, people have a lot to be excited about.

"Get excited about safety and get excited about wider, newer roads that are built with modern day design standards,” Earp said. “Industry, hopefully, will get excited as you'll have better facilities to access your businesses."

Earp said several of the roads they planned on fixing in the first couple years of the 8-year-plan have been pushed to the back of the line because of state budget cuts. He said those cuts make things extremely difficult on the department because they have every dollar they are expected to receive from state and federal funds already budgeted where they plan on spending it.

"That did hurt to move those out, some of those bridges are in bad need of repair and replacement,” Earp said. “It means some of those two lane roads without shoulders, we're going to still have to drive on those for a few more years until they can be upgraded.”

Of the 79 total projects in the eight-year plan, 16 of them were scheduled to take place in the next few years but had to be pushed back because of budget cuts. You can see a map of every improvement coming from the department of transportation over the next eight-years, including when it will begin and what it will cost here.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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