Eight years ago, I said something to this effect:
Interstates 35 and 40 cross near Dustbury, and they've been under construction ever since the Romans gave up trying to repave the Appian Way.
Which is, I suppose, something of an exaggeration, but I've been here for about thirty years, admittedly not all of them consecutive, and I can't remember a time when one of them usually I-35 wasn't under construction. Then again, progress of a sort has been made on 35; within Oklahoma City corporate limits, with the exception of the mile and a half east of downtown where 35 and 40 are signed together, and the three-mile stretch from NE 23rd to I-44, it's six lanes (or better) all the way. Now, of course, they're working on 40, and if they ever come up with funding, they're scheduled to redo the Crosstown segment.
What has irked me most about these freeways, though, is not their occasional clogging, or the perennial road work, but the view. The driver, of course, should be watching the road, but if you've got passengers, they're looking towards the sides, and they're likely not thrilled by what they see. The stretch of I-35 south of the Oklahoma River is particularly uninspiring, a collection of El Cheapo motels, abandoned boxes, and more billboards than you've ever seen before and the billboards are the least annoying aspect of it. The only sight that even slightly beckons the traveler to come in and stay awhile is the downtown/Bricktown skyline from I-40, and they're moving I-40 away.
To some extent, this is unavoidable: if there's a spectacularly beautiful place in town, there are probably good reasons not to run a freeway through it. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation actually has a beautification office, which is responsible for anti-litter campaigns and the occasional patch of wildflowers, both of which are worthwhile endeavors. Then again, it's impossible to imagine wildflowers at, say, I-40 and Meridian. If we expect to compete for serious tourist dollars, we need to make sure we don't drive visitors away as they're driving through.
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Copyright © 2005 by Charles G. Hill