City Engineer Explains Extreme Wear, Tear Of Old Arkansas River Bridge

Friday, April 28th 2017, 8:12 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The City of Tulsa got a lot of feedback on four possible designs for a new pedestrian bridge over the Arkansas River.

The deadline for feedback was Friday at noon, but what about the old bridge?

The replacement will cost around $24 million and according to the city, it would cost almost as much to fix the old one.

For more than a century, what's now a pedestrian bridge spanned the Arkansas River.

It was built to hold up trains then converted to carry people. Now, the city says it's twisting and coming apart.

"It was sad. When we were presented the fact this bridge has to come down, needs to come down," said City Engineer Paul Zachary. 

Zachary said the estimate for repairs came in close to the cost of replacement.

"We could spend from 17 to almost 20 million to rehab it and you're not rehabbing it you're really building a new bridge and we'd still have the same issues as today," he said. 

A study of the existing bridge found that almost every place it was welded is now cracking and all of the wood needed replacing.

Important metal beams were bent from all those years, according to engineers, of the bridge twisting in the wind.

"The bridge actually is rotating, when the wind hits it, that's why the welds on the bottom, every one is cracked," Zachary said. 

Zachary said even if the bridge could be repaired in place, the structural supports wouldn't keep holding it.

When they removed one of the eastern piers last week, for work at the Gathering Place, it crumbled.

"The 13th span came down, they hit the top part, they lifted the bridge off it and they hit it one time, that's it, it literally came down in rocks," he said. 

The city plans to start design work on the new bridge by June, and construction by next May, overlapping with work on the new dam.