Modifications Underway On A Number Of Oklahoma Bridges

Wednesday, July 7th 2010, 8:59 pm
By: News On 6

By Chris Wright, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Three years after a tragic bridge collapse killed 13 in the state of Minnesota, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation says similar bridges in Oklahoma are in desperate need of modifications.

ODOT has been examining its truss bridges since 2007.  Some are more than 80 years old, and many need some modifications to ensure that Oklahoma drivers are safe while crossing them.

The sudden collapse of the Minneapolis truss bridge in 2007 was a wake-up call for engineers across the country. If that bridge could give way, then the same could happen to other aging structures.

ODOT ordered a design review of all of its 95 trusses. Thirty have been finished, and nine of them - including the one over Bird Creek on U.S. 169 near Owasso - needed some work.

"Does not mean the bridges are unsafe. If we thought they were unsafe, we would close them immediately to make any modifications necessary," said Gary Evans, ODOT Chief Engineer. These are not repairs to the bridges, they're modifications to increase loading capacity."

Those modifications were performed on the U.S. 169 bridge while it was closed overnight last week.

ODOT says the problem with these bridges is the rivets where the joints meet. Most of them are at least four or five decades old. That's why they're shutting some down, taking some precautionary measures, to ensure there's no collapse similar to the one in Minnesota in 2007.

Those who travel over the bridge say they were willing to trade the inconvenience for peace of mind.

"If they're giving it some attention, that's good for us, as far as our safety," one driver said.

"If it needs to be fixed, they should fix it because it gets heavy traffic every morning and every evening," another said.

And while admitting that many of Oklahoma's bridges aren't in ideal condition, ODOT believes it's taken the proper steps to prevent a tragedy.

"We're proud we reacted quickly to make sure we provide as little inconvenience to the public as possible while making sure we assure safety crossing the structures," Evans said.

All of Oklahoma's truss bridges were built between 1925 and 1965. One in Garvin County and another in Choctaw County were also closed last week, but they have been reopened.