A Look Back at Broadway Extension
For the first time in my memory, motorists are being kept off of Broadway Extension for an extended period of time as one of the last and oldest sections of the corridor is torn up to make way a wider, modern highway.
Driving along Broadway Extension still allows for a glimpse here and there of what it once was - a rural two lane street connecting the state's capital city with a small farming suburb several miles north. It wasn't until the 1960s that the highway began to emerge from this two lane country road, and even then, the emergence of this road was awkward and never quite right for the growth that was to follow. Let's take a trip back in time as we say goodbye to the old road.
Planning started post World War II as returning soldiers started families and started buying homes further and further away from the central core. Industry was moving away from what is now known as Bricktown and settling along the BNSF tracks between NW 36 and NW 50.
Highway engineers started the highway from the south bridge over NW 36 that would funnel traffic directly onto a three-lane Robinson Avenue and through a historic neighborhood. Yeah, this was a bad idea.
Construction of the notorious junction with Interstate 44 started in the early 1960s. Photos of the corridor show I-44 at this point was pretty much a cross-country corridor with a scattering of motels and gas stations. Suburban sprawl is well underway and Edmond is set to grow rapidly as a result of white flight. In retrospect, highway planners inadvertently fueled sprawl and white flight with the expansion of Broadway Extension creating easier access out of the urban core while keeping a very complicated Robinson Avenue ending into the urban core.
Broadway Extension is shown extending further north with less and less two-lane roadway left going into Edmond.
By the early 1970s the highway was pretty much established four lanes between NW 36 and Edmond. And by the time my family moved to Oklahoma City in 1977, Broadway Extension was already an inadequate mess that seemed to be constantly undergoing improvements - concrete barriers replacing wooden railings on bridges, fencing to prevent kids from crossing the highway.
Traffic counts rose pretty dramatically. And the dead-end at Robinson Avenue just south of NW 36 was now a major traffic hassle.
By the end of the 1970s, planning was done and ODOT was set to acquire and clear a path through the Walnut Harrison neighborhood to build Interstate 235, which would connect Broadway Extension at I-44 to Interstate 35 south of downtown.
The highway also destroyed what was left of old Deep Deuce, the city's once proud black business district.
The road would be elevated between NW 23 and NW 10.
The Centennial Expressway - I-235 - being built over NW 23, looking north and west. The building in the lower right corner was eventually torn down and replaced with an On Cue.
1989: A motorist heads for the downtown skyline via the newly opened bridge routing NE 6 and Harrison traffic across the CentennialExpressway.
By the time I-235/Centennial Expressway was opened in 1989, it represented everything the rest of Broadway Extension was not - wide open with three lanes on each side and generous shoulder lanes with good on and off ramp lead lanes. Within a few years, everyone agreed it was time to rebuild Broadway Extension between NW 36 and Edmond. We've been at it ever since.