Bridge Collapse In Baltimore Has People Wondering About Bridges In Green Country

David Yarbrough, the executive director of Tulsa Ports, says the bridge over the Verdigris River has barriers that protect it from impact in case a vessel loses control downstream.

Tuesday, March 26th 2024, 10:11 pm



The bridge collapse in Baltimore has people wondering about the safety of bridges in Green Country.

While ships that size don't go down the Arkansas River navigational system, an accident can still happen.

David Yarbrough, the executive director of Tulsa Ports, says the bridge over the Verdigris River has barriers that protect it from impact in case a vessel loses control downstream.

12 million tons of cargo go through the Port of Catoosa every year.

Cases like the bridge collapse in Baltimore make people here think about safety.

"Let's reevaluate those structures that were built 20/30 years ago, and make sure that the safety systems in place are still valid or do they need to be upgraded," said David Yarborough.

The Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore was built 47 years ago, and when it was designed, freight vessels looked a lot different.

"I was thinking about what freight vessels looked like today versus what they looked like in 1977. They’re much larger today. They carry more containers. They draft deeper," Yarbrough said.

Yarbrough says the bridge over the Verdigris River has barriers known as cell protection. They are essentially big steel cans from 25 to 50 foot in diameter that are drilled into the bedrock under the water and are filled with rock and concrete and that provides cushion to the structure of the bridge.

He says over the years, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation has added more of them.

"On many of those bridges you'll see more cell protection even on the upstream side as well it's safe to say our bridges on our navigation system are protected from an event like this where a vessel is coming down stream out of control," said Yarbrough. 

O-DOT says there are 6,800 bridges in the state, and they're inspected every two years.

Yarbrough says 3,000 people work on the lakes and rivers in Oklahoma and Arkansas every day, so safety is critical.

"Something happens too close, it's a big hit for the folks that move goods for the ag sector that ships out their grain and soybeans for the fertilizer and steel that come in," said Yarbrough. 

Yarbrough says a single barge carries the load of 60 semi-trucks, so if a barge can't get through, then things take longer to arrive and cost more.

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