Route 66 business owners in Tulsa brace for street work

A significant part of Route 66 in Tulsa will undergo major renovations this fall, and several business owners along it have voiced concerns about the effect the eight-month project will have.

The Meadow Gold sign in 2009, which is a part of 11th Street in Tulsa
between Peoria Avenue and Utica Avenue.

KTUL in Tulsa reports 11th Street (aka Route 66) will undergo its makeover starting in October, lasting until June. It’s along a half-mile stretch between Peoria Avenue and Utica Avenue.

When finished, the number of lanes will be reduced from four to two, but with parking spaces and bicycle lanes added.

“We’re all concerned about it,” said Len Wade of Ike’s Chili. […]
“We’re trying to get folks to know who we are,” said Bobby Oertel who opened the new pizza joint, Bobby O’s, across from Ike’s less than a year ago.
“We picked this location to be on Route 66, and in general, there’s like 14,000 cars that drive down here a day. You know with the road work and everything else, that number’s going to diminish,” he said. […]
The city says they’ll keep the road open throughout the project, but as for the concept of working 24-hour shifts to drastically cut down construction time?
“You can work at night, but it’s more dangerous to the workers to work at night, plus there’s the element of the noise and the disruption at night,” said Britt Vance, Field Engineering Manager of the City of Tulsa.

Because the October-to-June time period mostly would be tourism off-season for Route 66, I thought the effect might be minimalized.

However, Mary Beth Babcock, owner of Buck Atom’s Cosmic Curios on Route 66, pointed out her busiest month is December.


And many of these other businesses such as Ike’s and Bobby O’s have catered primarily to locals. Drawing Route 66 tourists would be nice for them, but that’s gravy for a 100-plus-year-old institution such as Ike’s.

The upcoming street work and narrowing of lanes invite unflattering comparisons to the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project, also on Route 66, which still isn’t operational because its buses are on order after the all-electric ones encountered all sorts of mechanical problems.

The ART project is longer in terms of distance and duration — about nine miles and 16 months, respectively. And it appears the Tulsa project will create more parking spaces than ART, not fewer.

But I know Babcock is “taking a deep breath” because she knows about ART and its woes it created. She doesn’t want a repeat in Tulsa.

Hopefully, some folks at the Tulsa Route 66 Commission will come up with a few ideas to ameliorate the effect of that road construction.

(Image of the Meadow Gold sign in Tulsa in 2009 by Kari Sullivan via Flickr)

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