Ranking Oklahoma's aging bridges

Monday, June 3rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

There are many Oklahoma bridges in trouble. But not because of a barge or an accident. They’re simply old and worn out.

As News on Six reporter Steve Berg explains, Oklahoma has more structurally deficient bridges than any place in the country.

The bridge on Riverside Drive in Tulsa that crosses Crow Creek will never have a barge beneath it. But it has plenty of traffic on top. And 47 years of wear and tear have taken their toll. Mike Buchert with Tulsa Public Works "The members under the bridge have rusted to the point that in the next 5 to 10 years that if we don't do anything that we'll have to put a load limit on the bridge and we'd have to eventually close the bridge."

Bridges are often ranked on a scale of 0 to 9 with 9 being the best and 0 the worst. The bridge on Riverside is rated a 3, which is defined as basically intolerable, requiring a high priority of corrective action. "A 3 is not a very good rating for this particular bridge." It doesn't mean the bridge will collapse. Officials say it means it doesn't have the margin of error they like to have. “Normally, what we try to do is have a factor of safety of 3 to 1." That means 3 times the legal weight limit.

This bridge can't handle that, but it can still handle more than the legal limit. This bridge is scheduled for a fix, but there are thousands more just like this one. "We also lead the nation in terms of taxes that are diverted from transportation into other purposes."

The state needs more revenue, either higher taxes or the always-controversial lottery, to pay for all the repairs and replacements.

A group called "Trip" has a website with a list of all the worst bridges in Oklahoma and their location, its located at Tripnet.org.