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Pedestrians, bicyclists will be forced to share wide sidewalk along new downtown boulevard

The release of a new rendering of the Oklahoma City Boulevard, specially the section between E.K. Gaylord Boulevard and Hudson Avenue, is drawing concern from quite a few readers about whether the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the city’s public works department are planning to deliver something less than what was promised.

First, what was promised?

Throughout the planning process, this section of the boulevard was promoted by all involved, including Mayor Mick Cornett, as a grand entrance into downtown. This would be a special road, one that would be friendly for pedestrians and bicyclists, and would acknowledge its relationship to the new Scissortail Park, the new convention center, the Omni Hotel and as a corridor linking Bricktown, the Oklahoma River, downtown and Core to Shore.

But when the rendering was released, quite a few commenters noted there is no median on this “boulevard.” There is no clearly marked bike lane.

Does this look like a 21st century smart street approach to an urban boulevard?

What happened?

I talked with Eric Wenger and he said the rendering is accurate other than it doesn’t show the intersection of Harvey Avenue where it will dead-end at the boulevard. Whether that segment of Harvey between Reno Avenue and the boulevard is retained as part of any development of the former Fred Jones dealership site remains to be seen.

The rest of the boulevard does have a median. So why not in this one very visible segment between Robinson and Hudson?

“There was a lot of conversation during the design process that they did not want the median,” Wenger said. “They didn’t want it to be in competition with the park. They wanted to make sure it was very passable so pedestrians did not have to cross over the top (of the median).”

So who is they?

Well, Wenger couldn’t provide with any names, other than this was an outcome from discussions among the various project consultants (park, streetcar, convention center).

So I ask – was this another request by the folks at Hargraves? You remember Hargraves, the firm hired by the city to design the park but did nothing with the historic Union Station? They also opposed having the streetcar travel along the boulevard because they hope the street can be closed as part of a hope that the annual Festival of the Arts will be relocated to Scissortail Park. Or maybe you heard how their designs for the lower segment of the park includes no parking, no way to get there?

It’s the firm that is creating an amphitheater and restaurant at the new park, duplicating what we already have at the Myriad Gardens?

Who knows? But this was not a change that well communicated with the public.

There is no dedicated bike lane.

“The bike path is included in the amenity zone with wider sidewalk,” Wenger said. “We will have shared bicycle and pedestrian paths going from Robinson to Western and then back again. There will be a way to circle under the Western overpass.”

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Steve Lackmeyer

Steve Lackmeyer is a reporter, columnist and author who started his career at The Oklahoman in 1990. Since then, he has won numerous awards for his coverage, which included the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the city's... Read more ›