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US Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg Travels to Tulsa to Hook Up Federal Funding for Local Project | Policy

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg traveled to Tulsa on Tuesday to highlight $10 million in federal funding recently awarded for a project to reconnect West 51st Street under US 75.

The project is one of six state infrastructure projects to receive federal funding as part of the 2021 passage of the bipartisan Infrastructure Act championed by President Joe Biden.

While Oklahoma’s all-Republican delegation opposed the funding bill, its members provided letters supporting the local bill to transportation officials, records show.

Standing in a parking lot just off 51st Street, east of the massive Interstate 44 and US 75 interchange construction site, Buttigieg explained to a crowd of about 70 gathered for the press conference how state and local leaders worked to realize the project.

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“You’ve all shown what happens when a community comes together to accomplish important things,” he said, later adding that “after so much talk and so many big promises about infrastructure, this administration was determined to do so.”

The latter remark was a blow to former President Donald Trump’s administration’s failed efforts to pass an infrastructure funding package.

Buttigieg said rebuilding and reconnecting West 51st Street has been a long time coming.

“Over 60 years ago, the construction of US 75 created a physical barrier that split the Carbondale neighborhood in two,” he said. “Going from one side to the other is less safe” and takes longer because of the highway that cuts the neighborhood in two.

U.S. Department of Transportation officials announced earlier this month that funding for six Oklahoma projects totaling $48.7 million was awarded this year through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity program ( RAISE).

This year’s total nationwide RAISE allocations included more than $2.2 billion from the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, passed by Congress in 2021.

Tulsa was the second stop on Tuesday for Buttigieg on a three-and-a-half-day six-state tour of recently funded infrastructure projects. Earlier Tuesday, he was in Tampa, Fla., to discuss funding for a new port project.

When asked why he personally travels to Tulsa and other cities to talk about funding projects, Buttigieg replied, “It’s one thing to see a drawing or a blueprint; it’s quite another to stand out among the people whose lives are going to be shaped by the decisions we make.

“I wanted to make sure I had the chance to tell the success story of this project and hear the story of what it means to the neighborhood.”

The state had said in its grant application that “this project will help reconnect and revitalize a community that has been divided and negatively impacted by the creation of US 75.”

Longtime West Tulsa resident Linda Fitzgerald recalled how the freeway divided West 51st Street and the neighborhood.

After the road was bisected by the freeway, Fitzgerald said, local car traffic was funneled onto nearby West 49th Street, which she described as narrow, with no sidewalks or streetlights.

“It’s exciting for all of southwest Tulsa,” Fitzgerald said of the road project. “Neighborhoods can get back to where they should be” regarding traffic.

Mayor GT Bynum, who spoke at the press conference, said that over the last century a lot of work had been done to build infrastructure to support vehicles.

“So what this project is going to do for us is reconnect a neighborhood that was divided by a freeway decades ago and connect it to the world-class work we’re doing along the Arkansas River in our community to make it a regional destination of choice. ”

The project will reconnect the historic community of Carbondale, a neighborhood developed in the early 1920s to house workers from the nearby Sunlight Carbon Co., according to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s project application.

The neighborhood expanded east after Sunlight Carbon Co. was destroyed by fire in 1928. The neighborhood was later split by the construction of US 75 in the mid-1960s.

The new infrastructure project will include a sidewalk running the length of the street, a new pedestrian bridge over a railroad track, and a new connection to the Arkansas River trail system.

The West 51st Street project also includes several sustainable projects, such as a low-impact development to protect water resources, electric vehicle charging stations, and a buffer zone along the river to reduce erosion.

Construction of the project is expected to begin in 2024 and be completed by 2025, according to the state grant application.

The $10 million from the RAISE program will fund the reconstruction of about a mile of West 51st Street and connections under US 75 to Interstate 44.

The $10 million will fund 65% of the project, according to ODOT records, with the remaining $5.5 million coming from state and other federal funds.

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