Thousands of people who drive Highway 169 through the construction zone at Bird Creek have the same question: how do you replace four sets of highway bridges while keeping two lanes of traffic open in both directions on weekdays?
The Oklahoma Transportation Commission in April approved a $45,500,000 contract to replace the eight bridges from 56th Street North to 66th Street North on Highway 169 just south of Owasso. The bridges to be replaced include two each at 56th Street North, Bird Creek, the Bird Creek overflow and 66th Street North. The contract also calls for widening the highway to three lanes in each direction.
The contract gives Becco 580 days to finish the job. Two lanes of traffic in both directions will remain open during weekdays, when traffic is the thickest. The easiest way to replace bridges is to close them, but that's not possible on a highway that is a major commuter route to Tulsa as well as a vital corridor for commercial traffic.
For that reason, the company has to get creative. It will build parts of the bridges in stages, demolishing sections of the old ones as it goes.
"The contractor has started work on the south end of the project and is building a new section of the highway and bridges at 56th Street and at Bird Creek just outside the existing northbound bridges," said Kenna Carmon, ODOT District 8 spokeswoman.
Images from Osage SkyNews 6 HD show the contractor is building piers on the east side of the northbound bridges at 56th Street North and Bird Creek. Once the piers are ready, huge steel beams from Van Buren, Arkansas will be installed and then the new road deck will be built.
Carmon said once those new sections are complete, ODOT will move northbound traffic to the new section and southbound traffic will be moved to what are now the northbound lanes.
Moving northbound traffic onto the new sections will allow the contractor to remove the old bridges on the current southbound lanes. Once the new bridges and highway section are complete on the west side of the highway, ODOT will switch southbound traffic to that new section, making it possible for the contractor to then remove the old northbound lanes and replace them.
It breaks down like this:
-Two new northbound lanes built (construction underway)
-Northbound traffic switched to two new lanes (early 2016)
-Southbound traffic moved to old northbound lanes
-Old southbound lanes replaced
-Southbound traffic switched to new lanes
-Old northbound lanes replaced
-Completion, February 2017
As far as the Bird Creek overflow bridges and the bridges over 66th Street North, images from Osage SkyNews 6 HD show the contractor has started in the median
The two classic truss bridges over Bird Creek were built in 1960 according to NewsOn6.com's Bridge Tracker and are rated as structurally deficient. ODOT says the contractor plans to dismantle them and recycle the steel.
The Bird Creek overflow bridges were built in 1960 and the southbound bridge is listed as structurally deficient.
The 56th Street North bridges, built in 1961, are both functionally obsolete. ODOT widened Highway 169 to six lanes from Pine Street to just south of 56th Street North a few years ago and the old two-lane northbound bridge creates a bottleneck during afternoon rush hour.