Tulsa is experiencing the greatest period of investment in our city’s history, and the year ahead of us will mark the culmination of years of planning and work by the citizens of Tulsa who approved the Vision Tulsa and Improve Our Tulsa capital improvements programs.
The Vision Tulsa economic development projects were chosen in a cooperative process, with Tulsans coming to town hall meetings to tell their city government what they would support. And in the 2016 election, the voters supported Vision Tulsa by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
In a similar way for both Improve Our Tulsa packages, citizens came to public meetings and gave their opinions about what they thought should be funded. Voters approved Improve Our Tulsa and Improve Our Tulsa 2 in 2013 and 2019, respectively, choosing to invest their public funds to maintain and improve Tulsa’s infrastructure and services.
It is this kind of collective action in Tulsa that brought us to mid-February 2022, when we cut a ribbon with Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell and officials from USA BMX, Tulsa Regional Chamber and the Greenwood Chamber at the grand opening of the USA BMX National Headquarters and Hardesty National BMX Stadium in the Greenwood District.
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This project was made possible through partnership, with $15 million from Vision Tulsa, $6.5 million from the Tulsa Parking Authority and other city funds, and $1.5 million from the Hardesty Family Foundation.
Vision Tulsa also has funded a $48 million project currently under construction at Zink Dam in the Arkansas River. To improve safety and functioning of the dam, the new dam will have increased height and length of gates, along with removal of the dangerous undertow.
The project also will make a larger and deeper Zink Lake and add a recreational flume along the east bank of the river. This project started in fall 2020, and we are expecting to complete it in late summer 2023.
Along with our better Zink Dam, we are building a new, iconic pedestrian bridge across the river, with Gathering Place managing its construction alongside the dam.
This bridge replaces the old Midland Valley Railroad bridge from the early 20th century. City funding for this project includes $15 million from Vision Tulsa and $12.4 million from other capital funds. Construction began in spring 2021, and completion is scheduled for spring 2023.
Also thanks to Vision Tulsa, we are preparing to break ground in early May to build a new 91,340-square-foot Gilcrease Museum. Tulsa needs this new, state-of-the-art facility to house Gilcrease Museum’s priceless collection, including the world’s largest public holding of art of the American West.
In a public-private partnership, this project is funded with $65 million from Vision Tulsa, and the A.R. and Marylouise Tandy Foundation provided a lead gift of $10 million. Construction is expected to be complete by the end of 2024.
As for Improve Our Tulsa, this capital improvements package contains many elements, but among the dozens of street projects, one stands out — the largest road project in Tulsa’s history — widening South Yale Avenue between 81st Street and 91st Street from two lanes to six lanes. With a construction contract totaling $29,257,000, this historic amount reflects the complexity of the project, eliminating sharp curves and steep drop-offs and building a wider roadbed supported by retaining walls.
Construction of this project began in November 2021, and completion is scheduled for fall 2023.
As we are approaching a decade of strengthening our infrastructure through Improve Our Tulsa, we are building for Tulsa’s future through Vision Tulsa. We Tulsans are working together to make our city a better place to live and thrive.
G.T. Bynum has been mayor of Tulsa since 2016.