I-244 Repairs Snag Tulsa Traffic

Friday, March 6th 2009, 5:40 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Many drivers have found a new work zone in their path.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation started work Friday on three bridges along Interstate 244.

The bridges carry traffic westbound on I-244 through the U.S. 169 interchange, over Mingo Road and over 89th East Avenue.

Westbound traffic was backed up and will be worse during the morning commute.

After diverting traffic for the $4 million project, workers are tearing out the guard rail and sidewalls of three bridges.

"When we get done here, these will be brand new bridge decks that will ride exceptionally smooth," said Nathan Bullard, ODOT project manager.

ODOT built the bridges in the late 1960s, and they carry 76,000 cars a day. They have lasted so long with repairs, but the surface will be torn out and replaced.

"In this area we've had a lot of repair problems and because of the congestion it's hard to get in here to replace them," Bullard said. "So we had to go ahead and start a project to completely replace them so we don't have a maintenance issue in the future."

There will be congestion on I-244 until the job is done, and that could take until Thanksgiving. In some cases, entire ramps are closed to traffic altogether.

There is a financial incentive for the contractor to get the job done as soon as possible. ODOT hopes to get the project done by October.

For the first time, drivers will be updated on the daily flow of traffic with signs that change according to the time of the backup.

"Whenever the drivers come up to the message boards, they'll be warned about the work zone ahead," Bullard said. "It will flash average speed ahead, so many miles per hour and then it will flash how long it will take to get through the project."

Until the job is done, traffic will be down to one lane westbound.

Bridges in the eastbound lanes are in better shape and won't need work anytime soon.