- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

CHOCTAW, Okla. (AP) - The Oklahoma Department of Transportation secretary says the agency made missteps in announcing a recently proposed turnpike project near Choctaw.

Department secretary Gary Ridley apologized to more than 700 northeast Oklahoma County residents who expressed their concerns at a public meeting Thursday.

“We’ve really messed up,” he told The Oklahoman (https://bit.ly/1Q5FZmG ) shortly before the public meeting started. “The turnpike authority, myself. We really messed up as to how the information was distributed to the public.”

The $300 million project, named the Northeast Oklahoma County Loop, calls for the construction of 21 miles of new toll roads to link Interstates 40 and 44.

The plan for the new roads and five other turnpike projects have sparked public interest since it was announced at the state Capitol in October.

“A lot of people have a lot of money invested in their property and they feel like maybe they’re not going to get a fair deal,” said Jerry Williams, who owns five acres of land near the proposed project area.

Williams also criticized the turnpike’s proponents, who say it will bring new business and development opportunities to the area.

“That’s why we live in a rural area, we like it like this,” he said. “If we wanted to live in the city, we’d live in the city.”

Ridley said a new turnpike is coming to the area in one way or another because the Oklahoma City metro area desperately needs another north-south thoroughfare to ease Interstate 35 traffic. He said traffic accidents and fatalities would decrease when the project it constructed.

Ridley said a precise route of the new toll roads hasn’t been decided.


Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com

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