Why Are OHP Troopers Stationed In Construction Zones?
By Tara Vreeland, The News On 6
CATOOSA, OK -- You may have noticed Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers parked along either side of the bridge at I-44 and 161st E. Avenue.
Chris in Tulsa asks, "Why are they there, and who is footing the bill?"
There's a lot going on out here between construction, equipment, workers, and traffic. It can be very distracting for drivers. But ODOT says when drivers see those red and blue flashing lights, they take notice, and the area is safer because of them.
Winter weather wreaked havoc on this old bridge, and crews have had to scramble to make repairs.
That's why ODOT says they have gone into emergency mode. They say that because the bridge deteriorated more rapidly than expected, and they didn't have time to spread the word about detours or the change in roadways.
But drivers are frustrated with it all.
"Nobody can get under the bridge. Why do they need police there guarding it? Absolutely no sense," said truck driver Robert Bradford.
Two troopers sit on either side of the bridge with lights flashing.
"It's real simple," said Lieutenant George Brown of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, when asked about the troopers' presence. "To keep the work zone safe."
"You see the lighting from the blues and the reds, and everybody gets off their phone," said ODOT's Martin Stewart. "You'll see them reach over and put their seatbelts on as they are coming down the ramp."
ODOT assures drivers that taxpayers are not footing the bill.
"In each contract we have hours built into the contract for what we call police surveillance, and that allows contractors or the department to call on TPD, OHP, Tulsa County Sheriff's office, to come out and sit on our projects," Stewart said.
For this particular project at 161st, the contractor is paying for the added surveillance.
"Now they don't just sit there," ODOT's Martin Stewart said.
OHP says they have issued 24 citations total: 16 for driving around the barricades, four for speeding and one for driving under the influence.
They also say they've given over 100 warnings.
"It's actually cost efficient for tax payers for the service that we provide, because we provide an extra set of eyes out there," said OHP Lieutenant George Brown.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says the troopers stationed at construction zones are off duty officers who are paid overtime.
But again, it's part of ODOT's contract with OHP and the contractors.