Thursday, June 07, 2007

Oklahoma Highways

US Highway 66, the legendary route from Chicago to Santa Monica went through 8 states, and was a major route to the west coast from the Midwest and points east. It entered Oklahoma in the far northeast part of the state after just a few short miles in Kansas. It paralleled the current Will Rogers Turnpike (I-44) to Tulsa; the Turner Turnpike (I-44) from Tulsa to Oklahoma City; and I-40 west to the Texas Panhandle. This road has special memories for me, as my maternal Grandparents lived three blocks off of Route 66 in the OKC suburb of Bethany, where the highway was on NW 39th Expressway. For a short time during my childhood, I lived in a house whose backyard was on a hill overlooking Route 66 in Cucamonga (now Rancho Cucamonga), California, where it was Foothill Boulevard.

During the 1990s, I spent two-and-a-half years living in Tulsa, where "The Mother Road" had taken several alignments during its time as a US Highway. Today, the old highway is Oklahoma 66, but is marked with historic US 66 signs in many places. This most well known historic route is on 11th Street, but further north and closer to Tulsa International Airport is the alignment from 1926-1932, as indicated by this sign.

On the newer alignment (11th Street) near the University of Tulsa campus, I found the marker below in the pavement. It isn't all that old from what I could tell, but it is well worn.

Get your kicks on Route 66!

In the last year or so, Oklahoma has begun replacing its state highway shields with a new design. The old one was a simple white circle with black numerals. The new one features an outline map of the Sooner State with the route number below the map. While it is nicer looking than the old design, I think they could have done better than this.

This photo is an oversized reassurance shield for OK 11, a partial loop on the north side of Tulsa that is a main route to and from the Airport. Ultimately, the old design will be totally switched out with the new one statewide.

Oklahoma is the land of turnpikes, and nearly every major route in and out of Tulsa is a tolled road. One bypass route on the south and east side is the Creek Turnpike. This highway used to extend from US 75 near Jenks to S. Memorial Drive, but now connects the Turner Turnpike south of the city to the Will Rogers Turnpike on the northeast side. This photo shows the entrance to the Creek off of Memorial northbound.

Below is a close up from the above photo. I lightened it up a little to make the Creek Turnpike shield more visible.

It also happens that Oklahoma is the first place I ever saw electronic toll transponders, those devices that let you zip through special lanes equipped with readers that automatically charge you the toll. Oklahoma's version is called Pikepass, and I actually had one when I lived there. In Houston, they are called EZ-Tag, and in the Denver area, ExpressToll. Maybe someday they will be interoperational between jurisdictions, but so far this type of capability is very limited.

I do know that Dallas and Houston have an agreement to let their transponder customers use them on each other's toll facilities. I also saw in Houston last month that the EZ-Tag can also automatically be charged for parking at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. What a novel idea!

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