Are Contractors Really Dumping I-244 Bridge Debris Into The Arkansas River?


Tuesday, June 21st 2011, 5:05 pm
By: News On 6


Tara Vreeland, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- The I-244 bridge over the Arkansas River is being jack hammered to pieces.

The concrete and metal debris are falling into the Arkansas river bed, but some want to know if this is the best way to demolish the bridge and if it's impacting the environment.

News On 6 viewer Tom Rogers emailed us this week asking why contractors are using the Arkansas River as their toilet. He says they're dumping debris into the river bed as they tear down the old deck.

But ODOT says the falling debris is going exactly where it should.

The project is to replace the bridge with a new-double-decker bridge that can carry cars, trains, and pedestrians. But, before the $64 million project can go up, the old bridge must come own.

6/17/2011 Related Story: Arkansas River Bridge Coming Down Piece By Piece

ODOT says before the demolition began, it went through an environmental assessment to work with the regulatory agencies like the Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

"They are the experts there," Randle White said. "If there was something wrong with it, I would think they would have said you can't do that and we would have looked for a different way to address that. We've got approval."

ODOT says the contractor is using the busted bridge debris as a working road.

"The contractor is actually recycling the material rather than having to use all new material to build so there is recycling in place," White said.

ODOT says they will also recycle the reinforcing steel.

"We're being very conscious of the environment. We're trying to do the right thing," White said. "At the end of the project once the contractor gets through, that concrete will be removed from the river and it will be restored to its natural beauty."

ODOT says there are also concerns about the Historic Route 66 Bridge. If construction vibrations get to a certain level, contract demolition will have to shut down so the historic bridge isn't damaged.

The bridge overhaul is expected to take two years.