ELGIN, OK (KSWO) - Construction is underway at Interstate 44 and Highway 277 in Elgin, and in the coming weeks, drivers in the area should expect significant delays.
Currently, there are only two lanes when you exit off the interstate, one turning left and one turning right. Drivers come off of the interstate, stop at a stop sign and wait for traffic to clear on Highway 277 before turning. Unfortunately, each night as people return home from work, the traffic backs up as cars continue to exit, while the cars in front of them continue to wait for an opportunity to go. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) realized this was a huge problem and is now working to eliminate the daily traffic jam.
They'll ease up the traffic problem by extending the right turn lane onto Highway 277, no longer forcing those cars to stop at a stop sign.
"This project will widen 277 and the ramp, give the traveling public that wants to go into Elgin a free right turn. They will still have to yield as they get closer into Elgin so there will still be a little yield but for now, this will give them a free right turn," said ODOT Division Seven Engineer Cole Vonfeldt.
Vonfeldt said they realized there was a problem at the exit but until they set up cameras to monitor the area, they did not realize the extent of the problem.
"We saw some pictures of vehicles parked on the shoulder on the turnpike so that picture alone is pretty concerning. From the video we saw in that 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. range we'd have about 500 vehicles trying to make that right turn and each one had to stop, wait for it to clear and then go. With this, they can just go," Vonfeldt said.
The work will also widen Highway 277 to allow room for the extra right lane. But because of the work, unfortunately, there will be some traffic delays. The exit ramp will be cut down to one lane instead of two for 25 days during the construction. To ensure the contractor gets the work done on time, ODOT has put incentives and disincentives into their contract.
"Once they close the lane they have 25 days to get it open. If they go over 25 days, we'll charge them $5,000 per day. Likewise, if they go under, we'll give them $5,000 per day for finishing early, up to $25,000. We knew it would be a potential issue, we wanted to shorten that time frame as much as possible. We wanted them to get in and out," Vonfeldt said.
There's no set date for when the lane reduction will occur, but when it does Vonfeldt encourages drivers to make things easy on themselves and find another route.
"If they're coming from Lawton, coming from the south and back into Elgin, take the US-62 exit to Porter Hill and then they can turn East on US 277 to come into Elgin. They'll still come into the project, but they won't have to stop there at the ramp," Vonfeldt said.
Construction began on Monday, July 9. The contractor will now have a total of 45 working days to complete the entire project.