MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

October 8, 2013

Transportation board OKs $6B worth of road, bridge work

Program to take eight years to complete

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A $6 billion, eight-year highway and bridge construction plan was adopted Monday by the Oklahoma Transportation Commission.

The ambitious plan includes almost 2,000 individual projects to be completed by 2021, including replacing or rehabbing 924 bridges and improving 657 miles of two-lane highways and 552 miles of high-volume highways and interstates.

The plan is funded by a combination of federal and state transportation dollars. Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials said the construction plan and a separate initiative to preserve existing roads and bridges will ensure that all remaining structurally deficient bridges in the state will be repaired or replaced by the end of the decade.

“We’re focused on our bridge problems,” DOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said.

Also Monday, the commission awarded contracts to repair or replace 52 bridges, including 20 that are structurally deficient. Seventeen are part of the county road system, Patterson said.

Oklahoma’s bridges were ranked worst in the nation in 2005 by the Road Information Program, a nonprofit transportation research group in Washington, D.C. It also said then that Oklahoma led the country in structurally deficient bridges.

Since then, state lawmakers have made funding roads and bridges a priority, allowing the Transportation Department to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges from a high of 1,168 in 2004 to 556 last year.

Legislation was approved in 2006 to increase funding from about $200 million to almost $569 million with incremental increases in appropriations, according to the agency.

The construction plan focuses on bridge replacement and repair as well as another transportation issue that Patterson said is his agency’s next big challenge — pavement problems.

“We’re not going to get out of the pavement problem in one year,” he said. “It’ll take a number of years to do that.”

One project in the plan that’s already underway is two phases of the Interstate 44/Interstate 235 interchange reconstruction in Oklahoma City. The additional projects are scheduled to begin in 2015.

The commission also addressed county roads and bridges, approving a five-year, $900 million improvement plan. Commissioners approved an unrelated $26 million contract to reconnect the east end of the new I-40 Crosstown Expressway to downtown Oklahoma City.

The county road and bridge plan continues the agency’s efforts to use more than 2,000 recycled bridge beams from the old I-40 expressway bridge for use on county bridge replacement projects.

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