HARRAH – At just over 20 miles in length, the brand new Kickapoo Turnpike – connecting the Turner Turnpike to the north with Interstate 40 to the south through eastern Oklahoma County – officially opened Tuesday and your humble Southwest Ledger correspondent was there to drive the full length of the tollway.
Cruising along at 80 miles per hour on the northern half of the Kickapoo Turnpike is a pleasure. Designed to help relieve truck traffic and congestion on Interstate 35 through Oklahoma City, the 11th turnpike in Oklahoma acts as a sort of asphalt “release valve,” much in the way Texas State Highway 130, a tollway which bypasses traffic-choked Austin.
Driving past small ranches, farm fields, power plants and plenty of cross-timbers country trees, the $543 million Kickapoo Turnpike gives motorists an unimpeded view of this bucolic area of the state. It also will help better connect Oklahoma City and Tulsa metropolitan areas.
State transportation officials have said publicly that this new turnpike, which gives Oklahoma well over 600 miles of turnpike – just a few miles shy of Florida, which has the most turnpikes in the United States – will not only free up I-35 through the metro, but will also open up largely rural eastern Oklahoma County, which has not experienced the growth western portions of Oklahoma County have experienced in the past decade or so.
Now, while the entire turnpike is now open to the public for use, it is important to note that once one reaches NE 23rd Street/ U.S. Highway 62, speeds slow down to 45 miles per hour, as major construction is going on with paving the new road and signs being installed.
Traffic will often be traveling in one lane for stretches of this portion of the southern end of Kickapoo Turnpike. Additionally, exit ramps at 29th Street and Reno Avenue are closed until construction is completed by May 2021.
Kickapoo Turnpike is just one project that is part of Oklahoma Transportation Authority’s “Driving Forward” program that was launched a little more than five years ago.