A dangerous five-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 59 (State Highway 9) in LeFlore County was finally advanced on the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s $6.5 billion 2020-2027 Eight-Year Construction Work Plan. Local officials and citizens have been eagerly awaiting the road repairs for several years. According to ODOT, the section of four-lane highway has been delayed in the plan since 2005 because of alignment issues, increased costs and state and federal budget cuts.
State Sen. Mark Allen, R-Spiro, and Rep. Lundy Kiger, R-Poteau, were pleased with last week’s announcement and looking forward to the final phase of the project in FY’24.
“This is exciting news for residents and business owners who regularly drive on Highway 59 as well as visitors to the area. Not only will this new project improve the safety of the roadway but it will ensure a smoother ride, which benefits us all but especially local businesses when drivers aren’t avoiding bad roads,” Allen said. “On behalf of the people of LeFlore County and myself, I want to thank ODOT and our division engineer for their hard work in making this project a reality, and also Representative Kiger for continually working with me to better the quality of life for our citizens.”
The letting of the Right-of-Way portion of the project is scheduled to begin in mid-November of this year. The project will take place on US-59 from Sunset Corners extending west five miles. This first phase is estimated to cost $7.13 million.
The second phase will be the relocation of utilities, which is set to begin in FY’21 at an estimated cost of around $3.3 million. The grading of the road and bridge reconstruction is set to take place in FY’23 at an estimated cost of $10.9 million. The project will be completed with the surfacing of the roadway scheduled to begin in FY’24 at an estimated cost of $25 million.
“I want to thank ODOT Director Tim Gatz and Division 2 Engineer Anthony Echelle for recognizing the danger and importance of moving this project up and to begin letting the Right of Way next month,” Kiger said. “I also want to say that I'm proud to team up with Senator Allen on our district highway projects and making ODOT aware of the dangers of some of our highways, especially Highway 9 going west from Sunset Corners. Senator Allen has been a constant champion for highway projects over the past nine years in our area.”
Kiger also thanked ODOT for installing the turn lane on Long Lake Hill noting that it helped greatly in reducing possible accidents involving RVs and trailers trying to turn into the resort as well as cars racing to the top of Long Lake Hill traveling north to Poteau.
In all, the Eight-Year Plan includes nearly 1,400 projects. Another LeFlore County project approved for FY’20 is an intersection modification at US-271 and SH-112 at an estimated cost of $1.06 million.
In FY’21, the US-270 bridge over Caston Creek nearly one mile south of the US-271 Junction will be reconstructed at an estimated cost of just over $6.1 million.
Three more FY’24 projects were approved for LeFlore County including two new bridges at US-271 over Fourche Maline Creek 26 miles north of the Pushmataha County line and along SH-112 over Poteau River nearly half a mile north of Poteau. Another bridge along US-271 over an abandoned railroad track will also be removed just over 1.5 miles south of the US-270 Junction. The three projects are estimated to cost just over $15.5 million. "
ODOT further explained that sometimes states do not have shovel ready projects available to start and cannot utilize their federal transportation appropriations. Those funds are reallocated through fourth quarter adjustments to states that do have projects available. In May, ODOT was informed that Oklahoma would be receiving $62 million in additional funding through the adjustment, which allowed the US-59 project to be moved up in the Eight-Year Plan.