Note: This story was corrected on Nov. 15 at 12:30 p.m.
“It’s interfering with everybody that lives on 34th Street, it’s interfering with their lives,” said James Bird, who lives on Robin Drive, just off 34th. “There’s been no work all this week… You can’t finish a project, unless you’re working it. It’s been going on 15 months.”
Bird has good reason to be frustrated. He has to drive up 34th to Downs and around in order to get to work on west Oklahoma Avenue each day. He’s not the only one expressing vexation.
“I visited with Shaun Barnett. Because I was getting questions I couldn't answer,” Tom Fisher, a new member of the City of Woodward Board of Commissioners, said in a recent meeting of the Chamber of Commerce education committee. “In the beginning Woodward received about a $5 million federal grant. Part of it was for 34th Street.”
Fisher explained a portion of the money was designated for health and wellness, which is going to the walking trail and sidewalk which is partially completed South of Downs on the west side of 34th.
“However, federal regulations required that the City of Woodward give the money to a state agency, and they would be in charge of the project,” Fisher shared. “That's where ODOT (Oklahoma Department of Transportation) comes in. Kevin Kornele from the street department meets weekly with them.”
In a statement e-mailed to the Woodward News, Barnett, the assistant city manager, said:
“We have experienced considerable delays on the 34th Street reconstruction, but the City of Woodward has fulfilled all necessary actions on our part. That includes remitting our portion of funding, in the amount of $7,459,120.00, as required of the City prior to construction. This project is administered by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation who is responsible for coordinating all work with the General Contractor, Cummings Construction. Project extensions, penalties, and other such actions are at the discretion of ODOT. At this point, the City is unable to identify with confidence the remaining time for project completion.”
The City's portion of the funding comes from restricted or limited use sales taxes passed by local voters for capital projects. Commissioner Steve Bogdahn noted in a 2016 commission meeting explaining sales taxes, that two of the four cents Woodward collects in sales taxes goes to normal operating costs and the other two cents goes to the various capital projects - like 34th Street, the new fire station and others.
According to ODOT Public Information Officer Andrew Craig, underground utility lines have been part of the hold up.
“So the delays that are on the project are attributed to the amount of rain that we got. And some of the cold that we're getting now recently, as well as some of the discoveries of utility lines along the path of the project that had not been moved prior to starting the project and had to be moved during the project,” Craig said. “They've (utility companies) got to mobilize their workforce and get out there and that can take anywhere between a week to a month.”
Craig said there is a meeting coming up for resident engineers to speak to contractors about getting back on track. He said part of the delays have been contractor scheduling issues and being about to get people out on the job.
“We want everybody to work together and to be happy at the end of the day for projects which is why we are so thorough and looking over,” Craig said. “With these kind of big projects, construction can be difficult. Especially when we run into utilities that are unexpected and that happens.”
Craig said the initial timeline was to wrap up in the summer of 2019, but with the flooding this spring and the utility delays, that has been moved a whole year now.
“It's looking like it's going to be summer of 2020 before this is completely wrapped up and done,” Craig said.