City Councilor Phil Lakin's concerns about the city's Major Street and Highway Plan began nearly three years ago. Lakin will meet with city planners and other officials on Monday to continue discussions on issue. DYLAN GOFORT/The Frontier

City Councilor Phil Lakin has been concerned about the alignment of a potential south Tulsa bridge for nearly three years. Lakin will meet with city planners and other officials Monday to continue discussing the issue. DYLAN GOFORT/The Frontier

City Councilor Phil Lakin’s not eager to discuss building a bridge over the Arkansas River, but he does have strong opinions about where one should not be built: anywhere that would dump traffic onto South Yale Avenue.

“The vast majority — like 90 percent of the neighbors that I have talked to down there — they do not want any connection to Yale,” Lakin said.

Last week, Lakin proposed — and he and his fellow councilors approved — a consensus calling on the city to remove from its Major Street and Highway Plan a tiny segment of road that shows the bridge landing on the northeast bank of the Arkansas River approximately 1,300 feet south of the intersection of South Yale Avenue at East 121st Street south, then extending north along a yet-to-be-developed stretch of Yale Avenue to 121st Street south.

It’s an issue Lakin thought was resolved nearly three years ago. That’s when Lakin asked the developer of the Estates at the River, south of East 121st Street and west of South Hudson Avenue, to include in his development plan space for a road through the residential subdivision that would make possible an alternative landing spot for a south Tulsa bridge. (See purple line on map.)

The developer agreed, Lakin said, and a little purple line showing where the road could be built was drawn on the map.

Lakin said the alternative location for the south Tulsa bridge (as shown in blue on the map) had been presented to him by former Jenks Mayor Vic Vreeland, on behalf of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and had wide support among the various stakeholders he met with at the time.

“In order for that plan to move forward, it has to have some kind of connection that is farther south and connects farther east,” Lakin said. “And the only way, really, to accommodate that is through one of the parcels of land” at the Estates at the River.

Additional benefits of that plan, Lakin said, are that the road would not affect homes to the north and would allow for additional infrastructure to be built to handle the traffic.

“We can have five lanes connecting a potential bridge, not just the two-lane roads that are down there” at Yale Avenue, he said.

Last week — nearly three years after Lakin made his request at a Tulsa Metropolitan Area Planning Commission meeting — the developer was back before the commission seeking approval of a preliminary plat for Phase 2 of the project, and the little purple line through his development plan was gone.

When Lakin learned of this, he asked Planning Commission staff to seek a two-week continuance of the case to give him time to speak to the developer and other interested parties to see what could be done to salvage a road through the development — and thus an alternate landing spot for the bridge.

The continuance was granted and the meeting is set to occur Monday. It is expected to include the developer’s representative, Tanner Consulting, Planning Commission staff and representatives of various stakeholders, including someone for the Mayor’s Office.

Dwayne Wilkerson with the Indian Nations Council of Governments said the reason the developer is moving forward with Phase 2 of the project without including the space for the connector road Lakin requested in 2013 is because there is no concrete plan for such a road — it’s simply an idea, as is the bridge it would connect to.

The developer is not bound by the space for a road he agreed to include in his plan three years ago because it was added to the site’s development plan — called a Planned Unit Development — not the plat of the property, which is a legally binding document that sets out where the infrastructure will be placed on the property, Wilkerson said.

“We asked that something be put on there (in 2013) to be respectful of what Councilor Lakin believed to be the truth at that time,” Wilkerson said, referring to the Creek Nation bridge plan.

Ricky Jones with Tanner Consulting declined to comment for this story.

This graphic was created by Tanner Consulting at the request of the Indian Nations Council of Governments to assist in discussion regarding changing the city's Major Street and Highway Plan. The map reflects previously state ideas for a south Tulsa bridge, not actual proposals. /PROVIDED

This graphic was created by Tanner Consulting at the request of the Indian Nations Council of Governments to assist in discussions regarding changing the city’s Major Street and Highway Plan. The map reflects previously stated ideas for a south Tulsa bridge and connector roads, not actual proposals. COURTESY

The Major Street and Highway Plan is a regional transportation document that sets out transportation infrastructure needs based on traffic counts and other information.

The Major Street and Highway Plan is part of the city’s overall Comprehensive (Development) Plan, which is approved by the City Council. Proposed changes to the document are typically — but not always — the work of engineers and planners.

Lakin’s proposed change will be reviewed by two committees before it reaches the Planning Commission for its recommendation. The City Council will have the final say on the matter.

The south Tulsa bridge location, with the drop off point at Yale Avenue, was made part of the Major Street and Highway Plan more than a dozen years ago.

Lakin said there are a number of reasons he does not believe connecting a future bridge over the Arkansas River at Yale Avenue makes sense.

“First, it’s a two-lane road, so it is still ultra rural down there,” Lakin said. “(The) overwhelming predominance of neighborhoods and homes from 121st Street up to the Creek Turnpike, there is virtually no commercial or retail (except) one corner.

“Plus, you go past one of our most respected elementary schools, Jenks Southeast. It is right there at 101st and Yale, where there seems like hundreds if not thousands of parents and kids are there at 8:30 in the morning and then again at 3:30 in the afternoon. So, high-impact area.”

Lakin said the city just finished resurfacing two miles of Yale Avenue in that area without widening it.

“We can’t accept a bridge into the city of Tulsa without huge infrastructure investments to widen any roads to five lanes,” he said.

The Improve Our Tulsa capital improvements package approved by voters includes funding to improve the 101st Street and Yale Avenue intersection, widen Yale Avenue from 101st Street to the Creek Turnpike and widen Yale Avenue from 81st Street to 91st Street.

Those projects are not being done in anticipation of the construction of a Yale Avenue bridge, city officials have said, but are instead intended to improve the road from 101st Street through town, connecting to all expressways all the way to Interstate 244.

If an entity other than the city of Tulsa built a bridge across the Arkansas River that connected to city property, it would be that entity’s responsibility to pay for the road connecting the end of the bridge to a Tulsa street, according to the city Engineering Services Department.

At least one Tulsan — who happens to be a member of the Planning Commission — isn’t thrilled about the alternative bridge alignment — called the Longhorn (shown in blue and in purple on the map) — that prompted Lakin to get involved in the planning for the Estates at the River and request the change to the Major Streets and Highway Plan.

John Shivel and his family have worked with the Tulsa Parks and Recreation Department to construct Grace K. Cousins Park at the southwest corner of 121st and Yale.

Charles Cousins conceived of the park in the late 1970s or early 1980s as a tribute to his wife, Grace Cousins, and donated 10 acres for the project. Grace Cousins was Shivel’s mother-in-law.

The city has spent at least a million dollars purchasing additional property for the park and developing the property. The park has yet to be completed.

Under the Longhorn plan, Delaware Avenue would be extended northwest, cutting off access to the river from the park.

“My wife’s dying wish and request was that I pursue it (the park) with all of my heart to make sure her family’s wishes were respected by the city,” Shivel said. “And if they do put something, a highway, right next to what was supposed to be a very quiet park it would really destroy the content and the intent of the original donation.”

Lakin said he’s aware that in order for his request to modify the Major Streets and Highway Master Plan to be accepted, he’ll need to provide another landing option for the bridge. And right now he doesn’t have one.

“Then we probably just have to continue with Yale as is in the plan as it now stands,” he said.

Shivel said he would recuse himself from the Estates on the River case before the Planning Commission.

Planning Commission Chairman Michael Covey, who once served as a spokesman for a south Tulsa coalition opposed to the construction of a bridge connecting to Yale Avenue, said he would review the Planning Commission’s rules for recusal and act accordingly.