Six years ago, the I-40 bridge collapsed at Webbers Falls after some barges being towed upstream collided with the span. The News On 6's Emory Bryan reports it was an unusual accident, but it prompted some new protections for some key bridges over the channel.
The I-40 bridge collapse revealed a weak spot in the protection that surrounds most bridges over navigable waters. Large pylons protected the bridge on the upstream side, but the I-40 bridge was hit on the downstream side.
Soon after the bridge was rebuilt, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation added new barriers to both sides of it. And other bridges on the channel, such as the Highway 51 bridge, were surrounded by barriers, too.
In Muskogee, though, no one witnessed the impact. It appears the Highway 62 barriers worked just as planned.
"My guess is that the bridge pier protection cells upstream of the piers themselves worked as they were designed to do," said Scott Robinson with the Port of Muskogee.
All of the bridges on the channel that have supports in deep water were protected by the large barriers, called dolphins, that were built at the same time as the bridge. In the last few years, ODOT has spent $15 million on new, smaller barriers that offer even more protection on both sides.
"What the ODOT has been doing for the last few years is installing pier protection on the downstream side of the bridges. And, so that's what you see taking place now, in fact, the downstream protection piers on this bridge have just recently been completed by ODOT," said Scott Robinson with the Port of Muskogee.
There are 12 highways crossing the navigation channel, with a total of 16 bridges. After the I-40 accident, ODOT added pier protectors at 4 highway crossings with 8 bridges. An additional 50 new pier protectors were added to what was already there.
The new ones were installed at Highway 51, Highway 62, Highway 100 and I-40.
ODOT does not plan any new barriers around other bridges, believing the most vulnerable ones now have the protection they need.