Four lanes; by-pass in county's future?

Joined by two former Cimarron County residents, and the wife of a third, officials from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, (ODOT) and Cobb Engineering of Oklahoma City stormed Cimarron County on Thursday night. On the duos agenda, was explaining the proposed routes of both a proposed four-lane corridor and a bypass around Boise City on the federally-mandated but as yet unfunded Ports-to-Plains corridor through the panhandle along Highway 287.

>From ODOT was Roger Saunders, and for Cobb Engineering were Taylor Barnes and Kelly Farmer.

The corridor, when completed, will stretch from the Mexican Border at Laredo, Texas to Denver, Colo.; along that route, according to ODOT, the road will pass through nine urban areas with populations of 40 thousand or more.

It will when complete carry 11,300 vehicles per day, four thousand of them being trucks.

The improvements, when complete are estimated to take 25 minutes off the present travel time.

Barnes explained that the route from one-half mile north of Boise City to the Colorado state line has already been walked on a proposed right-of-way of 250 feet each side of the present U.S. 287. Archeologists and biologists have looked for and studied any potential effects the road might have.

“We do appreciate the cooperation we have had from those landowners,” Barnes said.

Barnes continued that the proposed corridor when finished, would be a four-lane divided highway, with a median 64 feet wide, constructed with “...minimal farm and ranch impact.” Barnes did however say that a rechanneling of Flag Springs Creek might be necessary.

Along the route will potentially be, six water ways and three wetlands.

Also there are possibly Petroglyphs and nesting areas for the Mountain Plover and Long-billed Curlew.

On the present schedule, rights-of-way are to be secured by Sept. 2004; the first 13 miles would be completed by 2011 and the last 12.75 miles by 2011.

However, Barnes reiterated that the timetable was at the mercy of the state and national legislatures because no funding yet exists to begin construction.

During the portions of the two meetings opened for discussion wrecker operator, Mike Barnes, asked that sufficient turnarounds be constructed for semi-trucks to turn around.

“Right now, I have to go clear to Campo to turn around,” Barnes said.

Laurie Schroder of Colorado expressed her concerns that with rights-of-way 250 feet wide, the United Methodist Church sign on the side of a small mesa would disappear. Marty Hepp, an engineer for Cobb explained that they planned minimum impact and that cutting through mesas was expensive.

Dick Hodges, of Boise City and a landowner asked if fences would be replaced.

Hepp explained that very often the standards desired by the landowner was not that of the contractor.

“It depends on what you want, your standards or ours.”

In second meeting regarding the by-pass, Hepp and Barnes showed routes northeast and southwest of the city.

According to Hepp, Cobb and ODOT support the northeastern route with 205 acres moderately affected.

The southwestern route would have a high impact on 270 acres.

Boise City Mayor Craig Sanders stood and read a statement that the city council supported the northeastern route as best for the city and its residents.