TULSA, OK -- All lanes of southbound U.S. Highway 75 over Interstate 244 have re-opened, according to a news release from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The right lane was re-opened just after 1 p.m. and the left lane was open about 4:30 p.m.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation jumped on repairing the road Wednesday morning, which at first looked like almost nothing. As they explored the hole however, it was apparent it was caught just in time.
At first the hole was all but invisible to drivers and was only spotted because a police officer stopped nearby to investigate an unrelated accident just before 10 a.m. Wednesday.
Traffic was blocked off so ODOT could investigate, first by seeing if anyone could reach the bottom. It turned out the hole was at least as deep as a man's arm.
The sliver of a hole revealed a void between two large slabs of concrete on the approach to the bridge.
After some prodding, it was apparent there was asphalt on top with nothing underneath. A jack hammer was brought in to chip away the crust of pavement that cars were driving on just an hour before. After a lot of jack hammering, the undermined portion was exposed. The gap was more than a foot wide, about six feet long, and several feet deep.
According to ODOT, rain washed it out.
"With the recent rain, water had been running off the bridge and off the pavement onto the slope," said Randle White, ODOT Division Engineer. "The water got in underneath one of the bridge drains and started eroding back into the slope and created a void under the road, and about halfway into the left lane there."
The new void under a road has nothing to do with the void on I-44 last week, which closed down the interstate overnight. That was a mistake by a utility crew digging under the highway.
ODOT says this particular case is just a problem with drainage, not the overall problem with roads and bridges caused by chronic underfunding.