Olsson Associates


New design brings better traffic flow to the Oklahoma City Zoo parking lot

Friday, February 23, 2018

Linda Van Hoosen, Communications

A poorly designed parking lot can be discouraging, especially when you’re trying to safely navigate one to reach a family fun destination. At the Oklahoma City Zoo, a parking lot upgrade was long overdue. The more than 60-year-old lot was outdated with only one entrance and exit. Not only were there safety concerns for pedestrians walking across the lot, but buses had nowhere to park and drop off visitors. A preliminary plan was developed and approved, but the Oklahoma City Zoological Trust ultimately hired Olsson Associates to redesign the parking lot and make landscape improvements throughout the project area.

One of the first steps in redesigning the parking lot was changing the direction of the traffic and parking spaces to improve pedestrian traffic.

“If you parked far away from the zoo, you had to cross four or five drive aisles to get to the entrance,” said Seth Barkhimer, Olsson civil engineer. “We rotated the parking, so the drive aisles are now perpendicular to the zoo entrance. Pedestrians can walk down the drive aisles rather than across them.”

The Olsson team also improved access to the overflow parking lot for the zoo. The lot is located across the street at a nearby park. Before the improvements, there were no sidewalks to use along the road near the overflow parking lot. The new design installed two sidewalks on either side of the road, a safety feature for families to make their way safely to the zoo.


Another issue with the old parking lot was the lack of a separate bus lane. The zoo receives many buses daily, most from schools.

“Before the redesign, there was nowhere for buses to park and drop off passengers,” said Seth. “Buses would pull up to the front of the zoo and stack up side by side with multiple buses in line. The buses couldn’t leave the area until all were finished unloading. Olsson improved it by adding a bus drop-off lane. Buses can pull in, park and unload, and leave. This has improved the efficiency of bus drop-off.”

Seth says it was important that the zoo stay open throughout construction, so the parking lot renovations were managed in phases.

Another challenge was locating utilities underground.

“Since the parking lot had not been renovated in such a long time, there wasn’t sufficient information on where the utilities were located underneath,” said Seth. “We had to move forward with our design, and then readjust with what crews uncovered.”

“We strive to not only meet the design needs of a project, but also the ultimate needs of the client,” said Todd Brawley, Olsson project manager. “In this case, we had to accommodate the daily parking and pedestrian traffic flow needs of the zoo visitors. This required substantial planning with the client during the design process and adaptation during construction to best meet the needs of the client, visitors, and contractor.”

Olsson provided civil and site designing, lighting, and signage for the project. Ochsner Hare & Hare, a Design Studio of Olsson Associates, provided landscaping, hardscaping, and designs for the zoo’s secondary visitor entrance.

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