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Retired general: OKC turnpike plan is a winner

Oklahoma City has made numerous investments to make our city more attractive for businesses and its residents. Oklahomans today enjoy a quality of life where we have all of the amenities of a major metropolitan area without the worries of traffic jams and hourslong commutes.

The addition of a turnpike loop connecting Interstate 40 to the Turner Turnpike will help maintain that quality of life while allowing for growth at Tinker Air Force Base and the surrounding communities. The project is vital to the continued success of Tinker, as it will allow for a connection from eastern Oklahoma County to numerous intersections for travel and will reduce congestion near the base.

The importance of Tinker in Oklahoma can't be understated. It is the state's largest single-site employer, and is home to the largest group of civilian Air Force personnel in the country. One in every 12 households in Oklahoma County has a member who is employed by Tinker, and Oklahomans from 54 counties make the commute to Tinker daily to work. The work in and around Tinker contributes nearly $4 billion to the state's economy annually. The addition of this turnpike loop will help secure the viability of Tinker during future Base Realignment and Closure hearings.

The need for Oklahoma roadways to be able to withstand additional traffic flow will only be compounded in the coming years as Tinker and the companies that support its operations continue to add employees. More than 1,300 employees will be added to perform depot maintenance on the Boeing KC-46A Advance Tanker in the coming years.

In recent years, Boeing has relocated nearly 2,400 jobs to Oklahoma City. The company is investing $80 million for a research and development center. With the selection of Northrop Grumman as the prime contractor for the Long Range Strike Bomber, their presence at Tinker will continue to expand as the new bombers are ready for depot maintenance.

This booming growth at Tinker isn't just a trend; we have built the foundation to ensure the momentum continues well into the future. We need to ensure our roads and bridges can accommodate the growth and continued success of this Oklahoma treasure while maintaining the quality of life we enjoy today. The proposed turnpike loop will help do just that.

Bowden is a retired commander of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base.

Read the original letter to the editor at the Oklahoman.

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