Oklahoma’s 20 busiest structurally deficient bridges have yet to be fixed, and the state is planning to repair or replace only five of those soon, an Associated Press analysis has found.

The review also found that only one of the state’s most trafficked deficient bridges, the I-40 Crosstown Bridge in Oklahoma City, is being replaced.

Three other states shared Oklahoma’s distinction of having work done on just one bridge: Indiana, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The findings come nearly a year after the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minnesota, which killed 13 and hurt 145.

Despite calls after the collapse to fix the aging structures, the AP found that two of every three of the busiest problem bridges in each state — carrying nearly 40 million vehicles a day — have had no work beyond regular maintenance.


Oklahoma’s 20 busiest structurally deficient bridges have yet to be fixed, and the state is planning to repair or replace only five of those soon, an Associated Press analysis has found.
The review also found that only one of the state’s most trafficked deficient bridges, the I-40 Crosstown Bridge in Oklahoma City, is being replaced.
Three other states shared Oklahoma’s distinction of having work done on just one bridge: Indiana, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
The findings come nearly a year after the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in Minnesota, which killed 13 and hurt 145.
Despite calls after the collapse to fix the aging structures, the AP found that two of every three of the busiest problem bridges in each state — carrying nearly 40 million vehicles a day — have had no work beyond regular maintenance.
“It goes without saying Oklahoma has led the country in structurally deficient bridges,” said David Streb, director of engineering for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. “We’re trying to chip away on that bridge problem. We feel like we’re still behind the curve, but we’re making headway.”
The AP gathered information on repair status from 48 states and Washington, D.C. In six states, data could not be obtained for some locally owned bridges. Louisiana and Nevada failed to respond.
The AP review of repair work on the 20 most-traveled structurally deficient bridges in each state — 1,020 nationwide — also found that in the majority of states, the most common path was to plan for repairs rather than fix problems now.
The bridges reviewed are not in imminent danger of falling down, but officials say the structures need improvements — many sooner rather than later.
“We have a perfect storm of missed opportunities here,” said Kyran Mish, the director of the Fears Structural Engineering Laboratory at the University of Oklahoma’s School of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science. “As a society, we need to be willing to set priorities: How important is it to you for you to be able to get to your job?”
Mish wasn’t surprised by the state’s lackluster showing in the survey, and adds that residents here already spend almost $1 billion annually on vehicle repairs because of Oklahoma’s crumbling roads and bridges.
“I keep thinking of the man hitting himself in the head with a hammer and complaining about his headaches,” he said.
Like Minnesota, Oklahoma has weathered a bridge accident: the 2002 Interstate 40 bridge collapse near Webbers Falls, which killed 14 people.
While the I-40 rebuilding took place, interstate traffic had to be rerouted onto aging side roads and bridges — a wake-up call that made state officials realize how bad Oklahoma’s infrastructure was.
Today, nearly one quarter of the bridges on the state’s highway system need to be replaced or overhauled, and hundreds of those projects are still waiting for funding.
In Oklahoma, transportation workers are responsible for a state with more bridges than Florida, Michigan or Wisconsin.
Of the 1,600 bridges needing major overhauls or replacement statewide, about 626 have been left off ODOT’s 8-year construction plan for lack of a funding source.
The department has estimated a $4 billion backlog worth of bridge projects. The 600-plus unscheduled bridge projects alone take up about $2.5 billion of that amount.
Mish believes a funding solution to fix Oklahoma’s aging infrastructure could come in raising the gas tax or floating bonds, but says such moves would take political courage.
“Our politicians are not giving us leadership, they’re giving us followership,” he said. “As taxpayers, we moan about gas taxes, and they follow our lead.
“Any parent knows that’s not a good way to deal with human beings. Leaders tell us what we don’t want to hear for our own good,” he said.

 

Oklahoma’s 20 busiest troubled bridges:

1. Crosstown Bridge, Oklahoma County
2. U.S. 169 at Interstate-244, Tulsa County
3. Interstate-44 at Peoria Avenue, Tulsa County
4. I-244 ramp at 1st Street, Tulsa County
5-6. Ramps along the Inner Dispersal Loop, Tulsa County
7. Interstate 44 at Penn Avenue, Oklahoma County
8. I-44 Belle Isle Bridge westbound, Oklahoma County
9. I-44 Belle Isle Bridge eastbound, Oklahoma County
10. Broken Arrow Expressway over St. Louis, Tulsa County
11. Broken Arrow Expressway over Utica, Tulsa County
12. I-44 westbound at Reno, Oklahoma County
13. I-44 eastbound at Reno, Oklahoma County
14. I-240 over Crooked Creek tributary, Oklahoma County
15. U.S. 169 over 51st, Tulsa County
16. U.S. 169 over 51st/railroad, Tulsa County
17. I-35 northbound over Deep Fork Creek, Oklahoma County
18. I-35 southbound over Deep Fork Creek, Oklahoma County
19. I-35 at Sooner Road over unnamed creek, Oklahoma County
20. U.S. 64 at Denver Avenue (southern side of IDL), Tulsa County
  Source: Oklahoma Department of Transportation