By Emory Bryan, The News On 6
TULSA, OK - Built in 1916 and closed to traffic in 1980, Tulsa's 11th Street Bridge remains gated, even though it was envisioned as the centerpiece of a Route 66 exhibit.
Tulsa's 11th Street Bridge connects the present with the past, but the relic of the first interstate highway system is showing its age.
"It's quite dangerous out there," said Dennis Whitaker with the City of Tulsa.
The city fenced off and locked the gates to the bridge last year, after learning it was too unstable to even walk on. Steel plates cover some of the holes through the decking. Asphalt fills in some of the cracks. The pavement is buckled and weeds grow in the gaps.
For the most part, the icon of Route 66, of Tulsa's history, and a planned centerpiece of tourism, sits idle. It's too expensive to repair, too historic to demolish, and too valuable to ignore.
"Do you preserve the historic component of it as it continues to erode?" said Dennis Whitaker with the City of Tulsa.
There were big ideas for the bridge after Vision 2025, but most all of the plans stopped for the sake of safety.
The engineers who studied the structure of the bridge came up with nine options for repairs. The most expensive would make it safe for pedestrians, but it would cost $15 million.
"For now it's been preserved. It's been cleaned up and looks a whole lot better," said the city's Dennis Whitaker.
The blacktop on the bridge is actually just a waterproof coating. It's too weak to hold up another layer of asphalt. The city sprays the weeds occasionally, but even that is considered risky.
So, the bridge will remain as it is while the east end of it becomes the new central attraction on Tulsa's Route 66.