Part 2 – The REAL Cost of OTA’s Turnpike Expansion
In Part 1 of this Special Report, we uncovered the truth history of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and exposed how they have been able to hijack progress and private property in Oklahoma with impunity since they began.
The response from you, our readers, as well as several Norman-area legislators was overwhelming. It appears as though no other news organization had taken the time to actually explain how the OTA got its vice-like grip over this state. We are humbled at the reception Part 1 received, and hope you will find Part 2 just as informative.
A News 9 story on April 14th detailed a meeting that Access Oklahoma had with the House Transportation Committee, in light of the uproar from Norman citizens following the announcement of the Turnpike expansion through eastern Norman. In that meeting, Jordan Perdue from OTA stated when questioned as to the number of homes that would be impacted, “We do not have that number right now.”
His response prompted Rep. Mike Dobrinski (R-Okeene) to ask, “How is that information not part of the equation?”
Since OTA has yet to be able to provide the public with any real answers about the total impact of their expansion project, we took the liberty of doing the research for them. In this article, we will detail the projected impact of the proposed new tollroads, broken down by the four main sections of the project:
- I-40 to Indian Hills Interchange
- Indian Hills Interchange to Hwy 9
- Hwy 9 to I-35
- East-West Corridor from Indian Hills Interchange to I-44
I-40 to Indian Hills Interchange
These numbers are only estimates as the final route has yet to be determined by the OTA. However, as mentioned by OTA representatives at a recent public meeting in Norman, the routes are “pretty much set in stone.” The total number of affected properties in this stretch of the project alone are 1,862. They are broken down by type of property affected, and whether the property will be seized or depreciated below.
The impacted properties that would be condemned (seized) are as follows:
- Houses lost – 149
- Other Large Structures lost (Barns/Garages/Shops) – 160
- Parcels not owned by ODOT – 191
The additional impacted properties which would face economic impacts include:
- Houses depreciated due to proximity to freeway – 765
- Other large structures depreciated due to proximity – 597
Total impacted properties:
- Houses/land either seized or depreciated in value: 1,105
- Other structures either lost or depreciated in value: 757
Indian Hills Interchange to Hwy 9
According to the “proposed” routes, the total number of affected private properties are 370. This is not including public lands affected that are not owned by ODOT. They are as follows:
- Houses seized: 120
- Other large structures seized: 104
- Private parcels not owned by ODOT: 145
- Cemeteries: 1
- State Park: 1
- Reserved School Land – 1
The property within 1/2 mile of the proposed route that would be negatively affected through depreciation are as follows:
- Homes: 292
- Other large structures: 279
The particularly shocking aspects of this portion of the project are the removal of a cemetery, and the plowing through of a federally protected wildlife refuge. When Ignite Liberty spoke with Amy Cerato, one of the affected residents, she mentioned that her discussions with the Federal Bureau of Reclamation (the agency responsible for the protected land around Lake Thunderbird) revealed that OTA had not even notified the Federal government of their intentions to plow through the wildlife preserve.
Ignite Liberty has reached out to the Bureau of Reclamation for comment on this portion of the project. As of publication time we have not received a response. We will update this article should we receive a response.
Hwy 9 to I-35
The stretch of the project from Hwy 9 south to I-35 would affect 1,223 pieces of property, broken down as follows:
- Houses seized: 182
- Other large structures seized: 144
- Private parcels seized: 205
Additionally affected properties within 1/2 mile of proposed route:
- Houses depreciated: 437
- Other large structures: 255
Total number 0f affected properties:
- Houses depreciated or seized: 619
- Other large structures depreciated or seized: 399
- Private parcels seized: 205
East-West Corridor from Indian Hills Interchange to I-44
The total number of affected properties by the proposed east-west section of the turnpike are 282. They are broken down as follows:
- Homes seized: 82
- Homes and/or property within 1/4 (depreciated): 200
The Total Numbers
All toll, the total number of seized property for the entire project is 1,482, broken down as follows:
- Homes: 533
- Other large structures: 408
- Private parcels: 541
The total number of depreciated properties are
- Homes: 1,694
- Other large structures: 1,331
John Kilpatrick Turnpike Expansion
Lost in the uproar over the proposed expansion in Norman was the fact that an expansion of the John Kilpatrick Turnpike was also authorized during the same board meeting that authorized the Norman projects.
Residents along the JKT corridor discovered this the hard way as the OTA sent out certified letters to all of the property owners whose property backs up to the JKT ROW this past Saturday – the day before Mother’s Day. The letter was provided to Ignite Liberty by concerned homeowners:
The letter set off a firestorm of concerned homeowners, fearful that their property would be next in line for seizure. Several homeowners spoke with Ignite Liberty out of concern. According to the attorneys they talked to, there was no legal recourse whatsoever to stop the OTA from taking their property since the turnpike was already in existence.
According to one of the homeowners, when they called and spoke with OTA’s corridor manager for the JKT project, they were informed that the letters had somewhat been sent in error, as not all homes along the turnpike were at risk for seizure.
The JKT expansion involves two different sections. The western section shown in the map below involves both widening the turnpike from 2 lanes to 3 (in blue) and adding access points (in yellow).
The eastern portion of the project, shown in the map below, mainly involves expanding the inside lanes only, and conducting sound studies to determine if a sound wall is needed in order to keep the project within legal limits for sound pollution. According to the homeowner who spoke with the OTA, there are no plans to seize property along this section of the JKT since the space for the new lanes already exists in the median.
In a voicemail provided to Ignite Liberty from the homeowners, the corridor manager apologized for having sent identical letters to all affected homeowners and stated that revised letters would be sent out this week detailing which homes would be at risk of seizure and which homes were in the clear.
While it is understandable that errors in judgment could be made, it is rather surprising that more care wasn’t given in order to avoid unnecessary uproar…especially considering the controversy surrounding the Norman project.
It is unknown as of yet how many homes will be affected for the JKT expansion. We are working to determine that number and will update this report once we have the final numbers. Regardless of the impact, the homeowners that will be affected have no legal recourse to keep their property because of the eminent domain authority given to OTA by the legislature 54 years ago.
If something isn’t done by either the legislature or through the initiative process to either arrest or impede OTA’s ability to use eminent domain, no homeowner in their path will be able to rest easy.