Story and photo by Hallee Ross
Shirley Hawthorne is worried the state will try to take her house.
Hawthorne and her husband, Wren, live in Choctaw in Eastern Oklahoma County, near the construction site of the new KickapooTurnpike.
And for the past three years, the Hawthornes have worried that construction could cost them a place to live.
“We felt out of the loop we didn’t know if they would take our house,” she said.
The Hawthorne’s problem began in 2017 when the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority made the decision to build the Kickapoo Turnpike, which would connect motorists to Interstate 40 and the Turner Turnpike, a major thoroughfare to Tulsa. Just before Christmas that year, they noticed surveyors walking their land and marking the streets in their neighborhood.
A few months later, in April 2018, the route was announced in a public meeting. The Hawthornes attended the meeting to gather information and were shown a map of where the turnpike would go.
“Engineers couldn’t tell us any reasoning of the route, it was only a preliminary map and they always ended with ‘this could change,’” Shirley said. She said residents were told that if their house was going to be effected by the construction they would be notified by a letter in the mail.
Construction began in January, 2018 and is expected to end sometime in 2021. So far, the project has affected more than 375 properties in Eastern Oklahoma County and continues to cause problems for citizens in Harrah, Luther, Choctaw, and Jones.
Later the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority announced it would take the road to the Hawthorne’s house to use it as a frontage road.
Road Closures and Detours
For Harrah and Choctaw residents, road closures and detours have become a part of life. Major streets in the eastern part of the county, such as 15th Street and 23rd Street, will close in the near future. Other streets, 10th Street and 29th Street, have been closed for some time.
Many of these roads connect directly to homes and additions, which raises questions about accessibility by first- responders. Additionally, some residents have experienced problems when using navigational apps such as Google Maps and Mapquest because street detours are not up-to-date.
The effect on businesses in Eastern Oklahoma County.
Turnpike authority spokesman Jack Damrill said it is unclear what will happen to the locally owned businesses as construction progresses. He said the authority worked with home owners in the area and didn’t change any of the patterns which were already there.
“We don’t build turnpike for economic impact,” he said. “But to relieve traffic out of the city and to reroute semi trucks off of I-35.”
Still, the signs of construction have already started to show. On March 6 of this year, the city of Harrah released a document stating that a new Comfort Inn & Suites will be built and will be fully operational within 18-24 months. The hotel will be built at Reno and Harrah Road along with twostrip malls and a Dominos Pizza
Traffic Construction and Vehicle Traffic
Traffic buildup on 23rd Street is at an all-time high with cars and construction vehicles. Some residents say oversize loads are tearing up roads and creating potholes. On 15th Street, dump trucks moving dirt have left a permanent red stain to the pavement.
For the Hawthornes, the main concern now is the construction of the frontage road for the turnpike. “It was very nerve wracking because we knew we would be affected, but didn’t know exactly if they were going to take our road or our land,” she said.