Tulsans will go to the polls June 28 for the city’s nonpartisan mayoral primary.
Every Sunday between now and election day, incumbent Mayor Dewey Bartlett and his main challenger, City Councilor G.T. Bynum, will answer one question a week submitted by Tulsans.
We’re calling it “So You Want to be Mayor?”
If you would like to submit a question, email it to The Frontier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today’s question was submitted by north Tulsa resident Jim Skaggs.
Skaggs, 53, said it seems that everywhere he looks there are road construction signs on city streets but no crews working on them.
“It just seems like we have enough construction without signs all over the place,” Skaggs said.
Question: What will the next mayor do to clear city streets of unnecessary construction signs and ensure that streets are as clear as possible for motor vehicle traffic?
Councilor Bynum’s Response:
Mr. Skaggs raises a great question that I frequently hear in all parts of the city. We can do better when it comes to management of street projects. But before I explain how, it is important to understand why we are doing so much right now.
In the mid-1960’s, Tulsa was in need of room to grow. In response to this demand, the city of Tulsa annexed most of what we now think of as east Tulsa and south Tulsa — the two greatest areas of Tulsa’s population growth in the last half century.
This annexation has been an engine of growth for our city, but it also came with costs. Both areas required infrastructure development — in particular streets and a world-class stormwater drainage system – which the citizens of Tulsa funded over the intervening 40 years.
Today, the streets that were initially built in South Tulsa are too narrow, the streets that weren’t maintained in older parts of the city need to be replaced, and the stormwater system that is the envy of engineers around the world is underground.
In 2008, I helped pass the largest street improvement program in Tulsa history. We did more work on streets in the next five years than the city had done in the previous 25 years combined.
In 2013, I led the development and successful passage of Improve Our Tulsa — an even larger street improvement program. That program is under way.
This brings us to the source of the problem Mr. Skaggs raises: A key element of the city’s street repair program has been to also replace any necessary utility lines under the street during the project. You don’t want to spend $3 million on a street project and leave the 1920’s water line underneath it, waiting to collapse.
The reason Tulsans see the orange barrels go up and no one working on the site is because the city allows utilities scheduled windows of time to do the work they need to do. In between each of them being at the site, the project just sits there.
We can do better when it comes to scheduling that work. As a city councilor, I have been able to help fund street programs but management responsibility falls to the mayor. We will manage those timelines better.
We will expand opportunities for 24-hour-a-day street projects. Again, this is a management decision that belongs to the mayor.
We will incorporate the street maintenance program voters recently approved as part of Vision. As a city councilor, I have reallocated funding that was being used for other projects and focused it on this need. Proper maintenance will prolong the life of our streets and reduce the need for the major reconstruction projects.
Lastly, we need to keep funding street work at the levels voters approved in 2008 and 2013 until we have an acceptable level of quality. We will lead the effort to renew this program while reducing the time individual projects demand of Tulsans.
Mayor Bartlett’s Response: