'Where do I get off?' Tricky area leaves motorists guessing
Construction on the Interstate 235 interchange with Interstate 44 in Oklahoma City has made an already tricky area even more confusing, with unclear signage and increased accidents.
On I-235 north, the last sign for the I-44 interchange is nearly two miles away. That is an overhead sign that offers no instruction for exiting, leaving motorists unfamiliar with the area to guess — or trust their navigation system.
Just north of the unmarked I-44 west exit, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation recently shifted the exit lane for NW 63 Street and left only a sign that read “Exit.” The department added a temporary sign last week that included the street name.
“This is a very complex project, a very complex work zone,” said Trent January, a traffic engineer for the state.
“There’s been multiple lane shifts throughout this whole project so, as we’re making all these lane shifts and we’re switching up traffic, we’re evaluating the signage, making sure that we have everything in place.”
The $105 million project began last spring and is expected to be completed in 2021.
An Transportation Department spokeswoman said last year that it was “likely to be the most disruptive to traffic of any other project in the state.” Nearly 100,000 vehicles a day travel on both I-235 and I-44 through the area.
The project— the latest phase of improving I-235 between Edmond and downtown Oklahoma City — involves building or reconstructing several bridges and ramps.
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Since construction began, accidents have increased at some points: From June 1, 2019, through Jan. 15, 2020, there were 16 incidents at the I-44 west exit on I-235, compared to zero in the seven months previous to that.
The Oklahoman has not examined all of the incident reports to determine if any were related to the lack of signage.
Lisa Salim, spokeswoman for the transportation department, says motorists need to slow down, be patient and pay attention in the area.
However slow and patient out-of-town motorists may be in the area, they still may not be able to figure out how to get on I-44 from I-235.
“I completely get that,” January said. “That’s something that we probably ought to make clear … . There was an overhead sign there that said this is how you go west, this is how you go east. But when we got into this next phase of the project, that overhead structure had to be removed so we could start construction of this phase. It was just in the way.”
The department has inspectors on site monitoring various issues, he said.
“We’re trying our best to make sure that everything makes sense to the traveling public.”