Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials have pledged to begin a new engineering study in hopes of quelling Dickson area residents’ concerns about the intersection of state Highway 199 and U.S. Highway 177.
During a town hall meeting Friday at the Dickson Community Center, residents had the opportunity to speak with ODOT representatives and voice frustrations with traffic buildup and safety issues. The meeting was scheduled by Rep. Tommy Hardin, R-Madill, and was also attended by Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Ardmore.
Bob Rose, Division 7 engineer, did the majority of the speaking on behalf of ODOT, and highlighted successful projects that have been completed in the Dickson area. He also highlighted the criteria for installing a new signal light. The criteria included pedestrian movement, collisions and traffic volume. Three previous studies have failed to meet the criteria for a signal light, but it was agreed that a new study should take place because of changing circumstances. Those circumstances revolved around heightened oilfield truck traffic, which is expected to be an ongoing situation in the coming years.
Rose said he had received a letter from Simpson in 2011 regarding the situation, and said he could not have predicted the oil play when the latest project at the intersection started.
In the previous studies, results showed at one point, truck traffic was increased, while other traffic decreased, and in the following study, the results were reversed. The number of preventable collisions in the past several years were also minimal, with two recorded from January 2000 through December 2010. There were none in 2011 and two in 2012. A report of 2013 bears further study.
The studies had little impact for residents who wanted the immediate situation addressed.
Complaints were offered about traffic backed up for a mile during peak school traffic hours. The traffic led one business owner to complain of vehicles using his driveway rather than waiting. From 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., a wait of 15 to 20 minutes can be expected.
“You do not realize the teachers have to be at school at a certain time,” one resident said.
Dickson Police Chief John Ruiz said he had observed the traffic situation from 7 to 8 a.m. Friday prior to the meeting. During that time, there were four near collision misses, he said. He also said traffic lines were extensive, particularly from 7:30 to 8 a.m.
Rose said there would be someone collecting traffic data during the peak hours when the study commences. Other promises were made, which included data collection taking place while school is in session. It was also decided other traffic patterns would be observed which lend themselves to the problem.
It was also decided a future meeting would take place during the evening which would allow for more residents to attend the meeting. The meeting was one of two ODOT had in the area Friday.
“I thought it went pretty well,” Hardin said. “I wish I could have scheduled it at a time when more people could be there. But I think ODOT learned about concerns they were not aware of from residents, and there was a good cross section of people.”
Hardin said a meeting in Madill later in the day focused on a bridge closing and safety concerns on U.S. Highway 70. A bridge between Madill and Tishomingo will need to be raised 20 feet, which will necessitate closing of the road. The road is expected to be closed for six to seven months, and the project is not expected to begin until 2017.
A project to extend a portion of Highway 70 from two lanes to four lanes was also discussed for safety concerns to prevent additional deaths that have previously been recorded. Hardin said residents would put together a petition to ask ODOT to act on the project.