Cherokee Nation, ODOT Tout First-ever Traffic Light Project as a Success

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. —The Cherokee Nation’s first-ever traffic light project with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is being touted a success by ODOT and city and tribal officials.

ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson was in Tahlequah Thursday to see the new traffic light at the U.S. Hwy 62 and Coffee Hollow Road intersection, where 11,000 drivers pass through daily.

“I want to praise the Cherokee Nation and the city of Tahlequah for their community-mindedness and stepping up to make these safety improvements possible,” Patterson said. “ODOT has a great working relationship with the tribes and cities in eastern Oklahoma, and I believe that will continue as we partner on more transportation projects in the future.”

The Cherokee Nation began project construction in July, and the traffic light was activated Nov. 18.

“I truly believe this new traffic light is going to make a difference in the quality of life and safety of all drivers, but especially our Cherokee Nation students and employees,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “I very much appreciate the partnership our roads department was able to have with the state’s transportation department, and how hardworking and diligent everyone was to see the project completed.”

The intersection is the entrance to Sequoyah High School, Head Start, Cherokee Immersion Charter School and the Early Childhood Development Center.

“My wife and I go through the intersection at a minimal four times a day, two in which our children are with us, and it used to be scary,” said Howard Paden, parent of three girls. “Like most parents, we hoped that someone would put a traffic light up not only for safety but for convenience. Some days you had to wait at the intersection for 15 minutes, or chance trying to make a turn in oncoming traffic.”

The Cherokee Nation funded the project from a half-million-dollar grant from the Federal Highway Administration Tribal Transportation Program and the tribal roads department funded the remainder of the total $750,000 project cost. ODOT approved the plans and provided oversight.

City of Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols said the new traffic light doesn’t just help the Cherokee Nation.

“We have had some emergency services that respond to accidents at this intersection, so anytime it can be made safer so that we don’t have to divert our resources outside the city, we’re happy,” Mayor Nichols said. “For anyone going in and out of the Cherokee Nation complex and the school, including a lot of Tahlequah residents, this light just makes the trip a lot smoother. It’s really a wonderful improvement for traffic on this south end of town.”

In fiscal year 2014, the Cherokee Nation completed 64.2 miles of road and bridge projects throughout the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. More than $13 million of tribal and federal dollars were used in the 28 projects.

“As the legislative body of this tribe, our job is to allocate our resources to helping our people and improving roads and bridges, and the safety of busy intersections is always one of those priorities,” Tribal Council Speaker Tina Glory-Jordan said. “We know this stoplight means a great deal to everyone, from Head Start teachers, Sequoyah bus drivers and residents headed to work every day.”