By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
State transportation officials plan to close a bridge that spans the Arkansas River between Webbers Falls and Gore for repairs.
Webbers Falls residents say the estimated $2.1 million project, which is to begin this winter, will cauterize a primary artery of commerce that connects the two towns. Lottie Hufford said elderly residents will be hit the hardest.
“Anybody in Webbers Falls who goes to the bank, the grocery store or drug store will really be affected,” she said. “Once again, it will be the elderly people who are going to suffer.”
Cody Boyd, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said officials are aware of the impact the anticipated 100-day closure will have on the area. He said steps are being taken to minimize the impact.
“Because the detour and time are an important focus of the project, there will be a financial incentive to complete the project early,” Boyd said. “ODOT also will work with emergency services (providers) in the area to make special considerations if the emergency services vehicles are able to pass, but it will be closed to regular traffic.”
Boyd said the project is on track to be bid in August. The expected starting date is November, with completion of the project near the end of February.
The U.S. 64 bridge, which was built in 1969, has been declared structurally deficient — one of 634 to have that rating in ODOT’s 2011 list of 6,750 bridges. A structurally deficient bridge is one “that can no longer carry the load it was designed to support or ... was not originally designed to support the loads being carried.”
Boyd said the project would include the replacement of the bridge’s floor beams, which support the deck, or roadway. Although the work will primarily be structural, workers will have to cut into the deck to access the beams from above, he said.
Muskogee County Commissioner Stephen Wright, District 2, said the bridge carries a lot of traffic, including farm implements. Residents and business owners on both sides of the river will need time to prepare, he said.
“It’s a good thing, but it’s going to be rough on both communities for a while,” Wright said of the bridge project. “It’s a big, old, tall, long bridge that is to the point where it needs those repairs. We definitely don’t want anybody ending up in the river.”
In an attempt to give residents the information they need to prepare for the bridge closure, state transportation officials will convene a public meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday. Boyd said the meeting would be in the parking lot at the Webbers Falls Park, alongside the river and just south of the bridge.
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
WHAT: Public meeting on closure of the Webbers Falls-Gore bridge.
WHEN: 1 p.m. Wednesday.
WHERE: Webbers Falls Park.