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Riverside Drive now reopened in Tulsa

September 15, 2018

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A 2-mile stretch of Riverside Drive closed three years for reconstruction reopened earlier this month, and Brooke Caviness said she believes Tulsa residents will like what they see.

The senior city engineer was the design and construction manager for the project.

“It is going to look like nothing people have seen and very different from what Riverside looked like before,” Caviness told the Tulsa World . “With the landscaping and feel of it, you don’t even know you’re going through the park.”

The park Caviness was referring to, of course, was Gathering Place. The 66.5-acre recreation area along Riverside Drive opened recently to a large crowd and great fanfare. One of the signature features of the Michael Van Valkenburgh-designed park are two land bridges that span the width of the new roadway, creating sleek tunnels.

Riverside Drive was averaging about 27,000 cars a day when the stretch of the roadway was closed as part of the infrastructure work around Gathering Place, according to the city.

The city spent $15.9 million to reconstruct Riverside Drive between 24th and 35th streets. Another $4.62 million was spent to make major improvements to the road from 35th to 41st streets.

Drivers traveling Riverside Drive will find that it has been straightened, and the dip near the pedestrian bridge at approximately 28th Street is gone.

A new traffic signal has been installed at the north entrance of Gathering Place, and the speed limit has been reduced to 35 mph from 36th Street to Denver Avenue.

Caviness said the biggest difference between the Riverside Drive project and other road projects she’s worked on was the publicity surrounding it.

And then there was that question she kept getting, again and again: Why couldn’t the city open Riverside Drive sooner?

Caviness’ response has been the same every time: “It was really impossible with the amount of construction going on,” she said. ”(We did it) for the safety of the people traveling through and for the safety of the construction workers.”

Motorists and pedestrians will also see changes at the intersection of 21st Street and Riverside Drive.

“We added a traffic signal,” Caviness said. “You can actually make that left turn onto Riverside Drive and go south. And we have added a pedestrian crossing.”

Caviness estimates she has spent about 40 percent of her time at work on the Riverside Drive project since the road was closed in July 2015. Some of that time was spent doing a little extra paperwork. Because the new road and other related projects were funded in part with a $10 million federal TIGER grant, the city was required to use only American products.

“The steel, everything we used, had to be made in America, and we report all that,” she said.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said he believes Tulsans will come to believe their patience has paid off.

“Riverside has been transformed from this old road that was dangerous in hazardous weather, where you might slow down to see the novelty of water in the river if it happened to be there, into one of the iconic stretches of road in America,” the mayor said.

The city spent $65 million on infrastructure projects in and around the park. Most of the work — including the overhaul of Riverside Drive — has been in the city’s plans for years but would not have been done as soon if not for the construction of the park.

Other major city construction projects along or near Riverside Drive include a sidewalk from Veterans Park, along the east side of Riverside Drive, to the north entrance of Gathering Place; a pedestrian bridge over Riverside Drive at approximately 28th Street; the reconstruction of the Crow Creek bridge; and the rehabilitation of 31st Street from Riverside Drive to Peoria Avenue to include bike lanes and sidewalks to Zink Park.

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Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

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