OKLAHOMA CITY (Tribune News Service) — A two-mile stretch of Douglas Boulevard is set to be closed as part of an effort by Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County to accommodate an expansion of Tinker Air Force Base.
The street closing between SE 44th and SE 74 will shut down a large part of the corridor between Interstates 40 and 240 where major property owners other than base and military contractors include the Oklahoma City Water Trust and Oklahoma Industries Authority.
The Oklahoma Industries Authority owns 220 acres east of Douglas Boulevard to provide for additional Department of Defense missions and to attract additional private sector jobs.
Clay Bennett, chairman of the Oklahoma Industries Authority, said plans announced Thursday will support the base's efforts to enhance safety and security while creating opportunity for future mission growth.
"Since 1941, Tinker has been a cornerstone of our city's economic base," Bennett said. "This base is arguably our most important economic asset, and it is vital that we do everything necessary to secure its safety and plan for its needs."
The Tinker expansion will be on the base's southeast side, stretching across Douglas Boulevard from SE 44 and SE 74. The new perimeter is seen as protecting existing Department of Defense assets on the east side of Douglas, placing them inside an expanded perimeter fence.
Tinker Air Force Base is the center of the aviation industry in Oklahoma City and about 31,000 people are employed on the base with a $4.83 billion annual economic impact on the region. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber reports job growth at the base in the past decade has been responsible for growing population and average incomes.
Sean Trauschke, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber chairman, said the city and county have a track record of working with Tinker that includes the purchase of the former General Motors plant and a BNSF rail yard for the base. Voters also previously approved a bond issue that bought property to expand a runway clearance zone.
"We have been in conversation with Tinker officials about the issues of security for some time," Trauschke said. "We always want to think ahead and plan for any concerns that might jeopardize operations. At the same time, we want to look for any opportunities that make the base attractive for new missions."
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