Pawhuska City Manager Dave Neely said in a Friday interview that city government has consulted with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation about re-establishing the use of a truck route south of downtown to divert a considerable amount of commercial truck traffic.


Neely clarified that this would not include oversize loads that are frequently guided through Pawhuska on Highway 60, which is Main Street within city limits. He also said ODOT told him Pawhuska will be responsible for enforcing the use of the truck route, and Neely said signage will be needed.


Neely said he anticipates ODOT will need to provide signage for the truck route, and he voiced particular concern about making sure truck drivers are clearly warned not to try to take their rigs over the narrow bridge that spans Bird Creek on Lynn Avenue. Flashing lights or something might be needed to ensure truck drivers stay away from the Lynn crossing, he said.


Neely also said that preparations for a long-intended downtown streetscape project are moving ahead again. He said the latest projections are that the engineering for the streetscape work can be about 90 percent complete by about June 2020, with the project to go out for bids in October 2020 and actually begin in January 2021, with a view toward completion by early June 2021, if weather permits.


The project currently looks like about a $1.25 million endeavor, with the city contributing about $100,000, the Osage Nation roughly $175,000 and the federal government, through ODOT, providing the rest of the financing, Neely said. He said representatives of the city, ODOT, the Osage Nation and the project engineering firm recently held a very productive meeting at Pawhuska City Hall about the streetscape project.


Neely said there had been some consideration given to paving the portion of Kihekah Avenue covered by the streetscape project with brick, but no one could document that brick had ever been used, historically, in that area. As a result, the street surface on Kihekah will be concrete, he said. Some new street surface on Main Street will also be concrete, he said.


The streetscape project will include the creation of green spaces, the planting of trees and the placement in the project area of additional benches and trash receptacles, Neely said. He explained that city government has already ordered a number of new trash receptacles that will look much like the ones to be acquired through the streetscape project. He noted that additional trash receptacles are needed near The Pioneer Woman Mercantile, to the east on Main Street, and on 6th Street.


Neely emphasized that streetscape project work will be done in sections, so as to contain the amount of potential dislocation at any one time. He indicated that a premium is being placed on minimizing disruption to downtown business activity.


Prior to the streetscape project moving forward, a water-and-sewer line project will have to be completed on Kihekah Avenue. Neely said that project would be going out for bids in a matter of days, and he indicated that he anticipates the water-and-sewer line work will likely commence after the holiday season is complete and Pawhuska merchants have had an opportunity to derive as much benefit from that season as possible.


“We want to make sure that all the businesses get their Christmas business done before we go breaking up the middle of the street,” Neely said.


During the course of the interview, Neely also commented favorably on the status of the city’s relationship with the Osage Nation, and he praised the ON’s expression of interest in working with the city on projects.


“We are all Pawhuska citizens,” Neely said, reflecting on the importance of the relationship.