One of the biggest road projects in Tulsa right now is largely hidden from view. But we've got some exclusive pictures of a $41 million dollar bridge project over the Arkansas River. The new bridges are replacing ones that were costing $1 million a year to maintain.
Thousands of people pass by the bridge project every day, but you can't really see what's going on until you get down almost to the river.
It's a massive job rebuilding the main connections for downtown over the Arkansas River. From Osage SkyNews 6, you can see the scope of the project designed to carry Tulsa traffic for the next 50 years.
The double decker bridge for westbound traffic is done. The lower eastbound bridge is half done and according to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, the old bridges could not have waited any longer.
Bruce Arnold, ODOT Resident Engineer, said, "The bridge decks looked like a quilt there were so many patches in it."
It's down below the highway view, where sometimes 75 workers are busy with heavy construction. They've built the basic structure across the river. Now they're building up, adding to the supports and laying the steel that will hold up the bridge deck.
On the north end, they're laying down wooden forms they'll use for pouring concrete. They'll do that from north to south.
The new modern bridges are right alongside the Cyrus Avery Bridge, which is being monitored for any new damage, though it's falling apart from old age.
When it's all done a walkway underneath the newest bridge will give people a good view of the old one.
"A pedestrian bridge or walkway that goes partially over the Arkansas River, so pedestrians can walk out on that and get a view of the Cyrus Avery Bridge," Arnold said.
One view, however, will have to wait. We drove down the space reserved for a passenger railroad; if it's ever built. It's alongside a covered, decorative pedestrian pathway that will link all the trails on both ends of the bridge.
"We're looking at fall 2014 for completion of the bridge, open to traffic, spring 2015 for the remainder of the project; the pedestrian bridge and the trail," said Arnold.
When ODOT is done with the bridges they won't be done with traffic on the IDL. They've rebuilt the north and west legs, next they'll work on the south and east legs, rebuilding everything there by 2020.