TULSA - US Senator Jim Inhofe was Tulsa Mayor Jim Inhofe when it became clear that something had to be done about the old Skelly Bypass, the piece of Interstate 44 that once skirted Tulsa on the south.
Over the years, the city exploded to the south, and the main east-west corridor across northeast Oklahoma was running right through the middle of town, and traffic numbers were skyrocketing.
Currently, it's estimated that 80,000 vehicles a year cross the stretch of I-44 near the Lewis Avenue Bridge, the scene of a gathering Thursday attended by Sen. Inhofe, along with Gov. Mary Fallin, Mayor Dewey Bartlett, ODOT Director Mike Patterson, and a host of city, state, and federal officials.
They were there to mark the final update on the I-44 widening project which broke ground in 2009 after decades of planning, lobbying, and deal-making.
Patterson told KRMG "When I went to work at ODOT more than 30 years ago, this was being discussed."
It is perhaps the most complex project in ODOT history, and when completed some time around June, it will be a major improvement to traffic flow, and as importantly, to safety.
Infrastructure is something near and dear to Sen. Inhofe's heart.
He told KRMG he's all about defense and infrastructure, and that is what Congress is supposed to focus on, rather than social engineering.
"We should be big spenders in those two areas, national defense and infrastructure, or roads and highways. That's what the Constitution tells us to do, and I think it would be good therapy for everyone in public office to - every once in a while - see what the Constitution says."
"We've lost track of what government's supposed to be doing, and this is it," he added.
He and others took time to laud the efforts and expertise of Oklahoma Transportation Secretary Gary Ridley.
Ridley currently has some health issues and could not make it to Thursday's event.