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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Okla. improving number of poor state bridges

  • OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A new study shows Oklahoma ranks among the worst states in the nation for its total number of structurally deficient bridges, but Oklahoma transportation officials said Monday that the number of such bridges on the state highway system has been dramatically reduced.
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  • OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A new study shows Oklahoma ranks among the worst states in the nation for its total number of structurally deficient bridges, but Oklahoma transportation officials said Monday that the number of such bridges on the state highway system has been dramatically reduced.
     
    The study by the Washington, D.C.-based Transportation for America shows Oklahoma has the second-highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges — 22.6 percent — among the 50 states. The study, which uses 2012 Federal Highway Administration data, shows 5,382 of the state's nearly 24,000 bridges are structurally deficient, a term that means the bridge has a major defect in either its deck or support structure.
     
    Only Pennsylvania, with 24.5 percent of its bridges determined to be structurally deficient, ranked worse.
     
    Transportation for America is a broad-based coalition with more than 500 partners, including individual cities and counties, as well as mayors, councilmembers and other elected officials. Its executive committee includes numerous environmental, transportation and housing groups.
     
    But Oklahoma Department of Transportation Director Mike Patterson said the number of bridges in the study includes all the bridges in Oklahoma — state, county and city bridges. When it comes to state bridges only, the picture is dramatically better, he said.
     
    "Here in Oklahoma, as we have been working through our deficient bridges on the highway system, we were at 17 percent back in 2005," Patterson said. "This year, because our structurally deficient bridges are now down to 8 percent of the total number of bridges on the highway system, it's the first time I can recall that we're helping to pull the average down."
     
    The number of structurally deficient bridges on the state highway system has dropped from 1,168 in 2005 to 556 currently, and Patterson said transportation officials are working hard to continue reducing that number.
     
    Patterson credited a decision by the Legislature in 2005 to dedicate a portion of the state's income tax collections to pay for infrastructure improvements as a key reason for the reduction in the number of structurally deficient highway bridges.
     
    Also Monday, the commission recognized agency crews who assisted with cleanup following the May 20 tornado that tore through Moore.
     
    Secretary of Transportation Gary Ridley said crews deployed the day after the tornado to begin clearing debris from state and city rights of way.
     
    "The governor didn't want a lag time. She wanted the state of Oklahoma to respond immediately and with the full effort the state could muster," Ridley said, noting the department's employees were well received by residents of the hard-hit community. "As a state employee for 44 years, I can't ever remember a citizen coming up from the public and hugging me."
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