Oklahoma Ranked 5th In The Country For Best Highway Bridge Conditions


Thursday, August 4th 2022, 10:36 pm


TULSA, Okla. -

Oklahoma moves to number five in the nation for the best highway bridge conditions.

Federal inspectors looked at the number of structurally deficient bridges across the nation.

At one point we ranked second worst in the nation, before state lawmakers and ODOT made improvements a big priority.

Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz said Oklahoma went from having completely unmanageable infrastructure to manageable bridge conditions after investing billions of dollars over the last several years, but they're far from finished.

"We had so much of a backlog of deferred maintenance on those bridges and we let them go for so long without any attention. From 1987 until that time period 2004-2005 the state resources going to transportation were fundamentally flat,” said Tim Gatz, Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation.

Back in 2004, Oklahoma ranked 49th in the nation for highway bridge conditions with nearly 1,200 of the state’s 6,800 bridges deemed structurally deficient.

"That doesn't surprise me,” said Haley Adams.

Today, ODOT said fewer than 1% of its highway bridges are structurally deficient, making Oklahoma fifth in the nation ahead of Texas.

“Texas and the way they've managed their infrastructure over time, they've done a tremendous job and we have always been envious of Texas. And I'll tell you back when we were 49th I can guarantee you Texas was in the top 10. So just being mentioned in the same sentence with a state like Texas, with the quality of infrastructure that they've got speaks volumes to how far Oklahoma has come,” said Gatz.

Gatz said that's the result of a long-term plan.

"That's taken diligence and new resources, and that's required the support of the legislature and the governors, and we've really put those resources to work with a plan, and we've maintained that commitment over the long term," said Gatz. "Something all Oklahomans should be proud of because we've made tremendous progress and to come that far over time is significant and we've got one of the best infrastructures in the country."

He said it takes hundreds if not thousands of people to keep our roads running.

“If you look at the heavy highway construction industry, they're big employers. It takes a lot of folks out on our construction projects and our work zones to make progress. And if you look at the commitment of government employees and private sector employees over that commitment of time, literally been thousands of folks that have worked on this to get us to where we're at today. And again, that's a reflection of bringing resources to bear, having a plan, and then executing on that plan. Utilizing all of the partners we can leverage to get things done,” said Gatz.

"I'm just gonna try and stay positive. Keep the construction as a good thing. It's working towards something,” said Adams.

"It was something to be proud of,” said Terry Funk. “A lot of people really ding on Oklahoma one thing or another. Education or whatever. So, it's good to see something positive like that you know that they've been doing well on the last decade or so, you know? It's good.”

"It sounds like we've made good progress,” said Dan Winders.

"They're usually under construction and that should be a good thing, right? You would think you're gonna start to see the results of that, but there's so much construction all the time, it's like it would be weird if there wasn't construction. It wouldn't feel like our roads anymore,” said Donnie Parish.

Donnie Parish said if you haven't lived in another state, just know, we've got it good. "I lived in Indianapolis for a year, and they have potholes that will make you gasp,” said Parish.

ODOT inspects all its bridges at least every two years.

"It's in support of commerce and safety. Cause if you think the two things, you're concerned about with bridges it's can it carry a legally loaded truck? That safety concern and the ability of that infrastructure to support commerce, that's our motivating and driving factor,” said Gatz. “Investing in transportation infrastructure, that's investing in Oklahomans for the future."

Gatz said in 2004 there were 137 highway bridges that couldn’t carry a legally loaded truck, and some couldn’t even carry a legally loaded school bus.

He said he is proud of the progress, but they still have and will always have work to do.

"Now most importantly, you know, we've still got 1,200 bridges out there on the highways that are 80 years old, so we're not done yet. We've got to continue to be mindful and continue to be diligent in our investments,” said Gatz.

Gatz said the remaining 45 structurally deficient highway bridges are a part of ODOTS eight-year construction plan to replace, repair, or reconstruct.

ODOT has jurisdiction of interstate systems, the US numbered route system and state highways but not county roads and municipal roads.

Gatz said another focus of his is rural, two-lane highways that don’t have safety shoulders and told us these are locations where they have some of the most severe injury accidents and fatal accidents. He said Oklahoma is about 27th or 28th in the nation in terms of pavement condition and wants to work on that.