Oklahoma State Travel Guide

North America

Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa skyline.

According to abbreviationfinder, Tulsa is the second largest city in the US state of Oklahoma. The city has 411,000 inhabitants and an urban area of ​​1,024,000 inhabitants (2021). The city is located in the northeast of the state on the Arkansas River.


Tulsa is a fairly large conurbation with 1 million inhabitants. Despite this, it is a relatively anonymous city, which is relatively little known outside of Oklahoma. The city was an important center of the American oil industry in the 20th century and was located on the well-known US Route 66. The city is not very touristy, but is different from the capital Oklahoma City more beautiful, bordering hills and downtown is on the Arkansas River. The urban area is very green, there are many trees, and there are more forests around the city than further west. Tulsa is also an industrial city, along the Arkansas River are a number of oil refineries. Tulsa is a city that is primarily suburban in character, like almost all cities in the Midwestern and Southern United States. The center is quite large and has a reasonable skyline. The center is typical of the Midwest, and consists of office buildings, parking lots, and wide 4-lane one-way streets. In 2020, Tulsa’s urban area crossed the 1 million population mark.

Road network

Tulsa’s highway network.

According to countryaah, Tulsa has a fairly large highway network, and is spacious. Interstate 44 runs diagonally through the city, but not downtown. The center is served by Interstate 244 and the unsigned Interstate 444. Both roads together form a five-mile ring around downtown Tulsa. The city of Tulsa is mainly connected to other major cities by toll roads. To Oklahoma City is the Turner Turnpike, to Joplin and St. Louis the Will Rogers Turnpike, both part of I-44. The Muskogee Turnpike heads southeast to Muskogee and I-40 toward Arkansas. The Cimarron Turnpike heads west to Stillwater and I-35. The Creek Turnpike forms the outer southern and eastern bypass of the conurbation, but is relatively far away from I-44 for through traffic.

In addition, there are a number of highways such as State Routes and US Routes. US 64 forms the main east-west route, connecting the western suburbs with the southern and eastern suburbs. The western section along the Arkansas River is called the Keystone Expressway, the eastern section the Broken Arrow Expressway. US 75 forms a highway through the southwest and north of the city. It’s called the Okmulgee Expressway from Jenks to I-244, and the Cherokee Expressway in north Tulsa. US 169 is the third highway as US Highway, and forms a north-south axis through the east of the city and is called the Mingo Valley Expressway. In addition, the State Route 11, which forms the Gilcrease Expressway in the north of the city, State Route 51, which forms the eastern portion of the Broken Arrow Expressway, and the unnumbered Tisdale Parkway, which runs in northwest Tulsa.

The capacity of the highways in Tulsa is more than sufficient in most cases. Most routes have 2×3 or 2×4 lanes. Only I-44 is still being widened from 2×2 to 2×3 lanes, and has traditionally been the largest bottleneck in the metropolitan area. Around Downtown Tulsa, traffic is well spread over the available highways. In fact, Tulsa’s highway network is even more extensive than that of the capital Oklahoma City.

List of freeways

name length first opening last opening max AADT 2016
Skelly Drive 45 km 1957 1959 95,000
Red Fork Expressway / Crosstown Expressway 25 km 1971 1979 100,000
Interstate 444 4 km 1974 1979 51,000
Broken Arrow Expressway 12 km 1965 1993 104,000
Cherokee Expressway 16 km 1973 1980 45,000
Okmulgee Expressway 12 km 1966 1973 66,000
Mingo Valley Expressway 40 km 1965 1993 126,000
Sandy Springs Expressway 12 km 1974 1974 57,000
Gilcrease Expressway 13 km 1966 2009 39,000
Broken Arrow Expressway 12 km 1966 1966 89,000
Gilcrease Expressway 8 km 2022 2022 ?
Creek Turnpike 53 km 1992 2002 57,000


Tulsa’s 1955 highway plan.

In the 1955 highway plan, Tulsa was chosen for a bypass and a route through downtown, today I-44 and I-244. At the time, the agglomeration was still relatively small with 250,000 inhabitants. The first highway to open was the Turner Turnpike between Oklahoma City and the outskirts of Tulsa in 1953. In 1957, the Will Rogers Turnpike opened from the outskirts of Tulsa to the Missouri border. The intermediate section through Tulsa was opened between 1957 and 1959, so it actually predates the Interstate Highway system. Much use of this Interstate Highway system was not made in Tulsa, unlike Oklahoma City or Kansas City. Only two freeways were built under this system, I-244 and I-444 between 1971 and 1979. One of the first freeways built after I-44 was the Broken Arrow Expressway (US 64) in 1965 and 1966 in the United States. east of Tulsa. This link was also completed through Tulsa in 1979, with the exception of the north-south section, which was constructed at the same time as the Mingo Valley Expressway (US 169) in the 1980s and early 1990s. This was not completed until 1993. A somewhat different early highway was US 75 between Jenks and I-244, which opened way back in 1966. The section through north Tulsa opened in 1973 and 1974, although the last link north of I-244 was not closed until 1980. The first section of the Gilcrease Expressway (SH 11) also opened in 1966, and this too was only completed in more recent years, was significantly passable by 1988,


After the Turner Turnpike and the Will Rogers Turnpike were built in the 1950s, plans were unfolded for more toll roads. Why this was chosen, and not for Interstate Highways is unknown, the Muskogee Turnpike opened in 1969 and the Cimarron Turnpike opened in 1975 could also have been spurs of Interstate Highways, since they serve an important city like Tulsa with I-40 and I-40 respectively. Connect I-35. Two decades later, another toll road was built around Tulsa, the Creek Turnpike. The first part of this opened in 1992 in the south of the city, and was completed between 2000 and 2002. Tulsa thus has a second bypass, but is not very interesting for through traffic.

Past plans

Like more cities, a larger highway network was planned in the 1970s than was eventually built. This also applies to Tulsa. Plans that fell through included a highway on the east bank of the Arkansas River from downtown to the southern suburbs. A western bypass was also planned, as an extended Gilcrease Expressway along the west side of Tulsa to I-44 at Sapulpa. This would require an additional bridge over the Arkansas River. Also at that time, a north-south highway was planned from downtown to the north, parallel to the Osage Indian reservation. Part of this was later built as the Tisdale Parkway, but 1970s plans envisioned a highway running much further north, perhaps as far as Skiatook. A somewhat smaller plan at the time was an east-west highway along the north side of the airport, between US 169 and the Gilcrease Expressway. This one was never built.

The reason these highways were not built is mainly because the strong growth that took place in neighboring Texas in the 1970s and 1980s did not spread to Oklahoma. Growth was relatively limited in both Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and even below the US average. This was partly due to financial problems in the state of Oklahoma in the 1980s, which had repercussions on housing construction. However, growth in Oklahoma is expected to increase in the future as housing in Texas’ urban areas becomes more expensive. Oklahoma is one of the cheapest states to live in.


Tulsa is one of the least congested cities in the United States, with a travel time index of just 12% in the 2016 TomTom Traffic Index. [2] Most highways are 2×2 or 2×3 lanes wide, and a single stretch is slightly wider with 2×4 lanes. The intensities are low, the busiest point is US 169, with 126,000 vehicles per day. Around the center only intensities around 60,000 are achieved, which is due to the good underlying road network and alternative highways for through traffic. As a result, there is absolutely no question of structural congestion. Most highways have more than enough capacity left.