Hundreds in eastern Oklahoma Co. oppose turnpike expansion
The battle over a proposed turnpike expansion got heated in Choctaw on Thursday evening. A community meeting was held at the Eastern Oklahoma County Tech Center where the Turnpike Authority and Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley explained the need for expansion. More than 700 people packed the meeting room and spilled outside, most of them strongly against the plan.
The OTA says it wants to create 21 miles of turnpike that connects I-40 to I-44. The road would run near Peebly road in eastern Oklahoma County.Those who live near the proposed route say it would cut through their property and destroy their rural and quiet way of life. They are afraid imminent domain will allow the OTA to take possession of their homes and property.
"We feel like it will decrease the value of our property and just change the way of life that we want," said Morgan Wilson.
Wilson says the turnpike would cut through her family's land. She's had to stop construction on a house for her and her family because she's afraid it will just get taken away.
At Thursday's meeting Congressman Steve Russell made an appearance. He said his home could be taken away too. He wants to make sure the OTA is proposing this expansion for the right reasons. He says economic development and private business is not a reason to expand. He says the only constitutional reason would be for public safety.
"If the public need and the safety and the growth of that community is more important than my house, I have come to the realization that I might lose it. I don't want that outcome," the Congressman said.
There were those at the community meeting who were in favor of the proposal. They say the area needs economic growth and an easier way to travel north and south.
After the meeting, residents were encouraged to meet with engineers and explain how the turnpike would affect their property. The OTA said it would take those comments and put together a plan that creates the least disruption and present it back to the community in four to five weeks.