‘TOP 10 ISN’T JUST A SLOGAN’
OKLAHOMA CITY – Less than two decades ago Oklahoma had some of the most deteriorated bridges in the nation. Today Oklahoma has achieved Top 10 status for the first time by ranking among states that have the best and safest bridges.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently ranked Oklahoma ninth-best for bridge conditions, according to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Gov. Kevin Stitt.
The Sooner State was as low as 49th place in 2004 in national bridge condition rankings because of the number of structurally deficient bridges on the state highway system. At that time nearly 1,200 of Oklahoma’s 6,800 highway bridges were considered structurally deficient, meaning they displayed signs of needing major rehabilita- tion or replacement.
“Top 10 isn’t just a slogan. It is the vision that helps form and guide our road map to improving state government and changing the future of all four million Oklahomans for the better,” the governor said in making the announcement from a bridge site in downtown Oklahoma City.
“Transportation is the backbone of the economy, and this designation shows Oklahoma is a new national leader in highway bridge infrastructure thanks to the dedication of ODOT employees and an unprecedented investment in our bridges by the Legislature.”
As an illustration, nearly $1 million was spent to rehabilitate a pair of bridges on Interstate 44 over Fort Sill’s Howitzer Trail and the Union Pacific railroad 1.8 miles north of US-62 in Lawton, near the post’s Key Gate.
Expansion joints were replaced and the concrete decks, parapet walls and slope walls of the bridges were repaired, the Media and Public Relations Division of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) reported.
Built Right Construction of Savanna, Okla., was awarded a $994,388 contract on the project. The work started in March and was completed later in the spring, ODOT spokesman Cody Boyd said.
Both I-44 structures were constructed 61 years ago, in 1959, and carry a combined average of 27,500 vehicles daily, research shows.
‘JUST TO KEEP PACE’ REQUIRES $40M/YEAR
ODOT embarked in 2005 on a massive effort to improve highway bridges after decades of underfunding to transportation infrastructure took a toll, causing a backlog of critically needed projects. A targeted approach to fixing bridges began taking shape through a series of legislative funding mechanisms and identifying key funding opportunities by the congressional delegation.
The Transportation Department calculates that it needs to spend $40 million annually on bridge rehabilitation and preservation “just to keep pace with our aging bridges,” Boyd said.
Examples of aging bridges are the 65-year-old span on SH-5 that straddles the North Fork of the Red River at the Jackson/Tillman county line west of Tipton, along with a nearby 68-year-old overflow bridge. The average daily traffic volume across the bridges last year was 1,200, ODOT research showed.
A $7.1 million contract to replace both structures was awarded in April by the state Transportation Commission to Bridgeco Contractors of Wellston. The existing structures will remain standing while a new two-lane bridge is built, but will be demolished after the work is fin- ished, according to Jackson Mayberry of ODOT’s Media and Public Relations Division.
ODOT allocated 300 calendar days to complete the job after the start of construction.
“This overhaul on our highway bridges took more than 15 years and has only been possible thanks to the consistent vision and support of our governors, legislators and congressional delegates,” Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz said. “We also have to thank Oklahomans for making transportation a priority. With significant citizen support this issue rose to the top of state needs.”
Off-system bridges on city streets or county roads are maintained separately by local governments, which account for an additional 16,000 structures statewide that have their own critical needs and funding challenges.