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$4 billion state plan targets bad bridges

$4 billion state plan targets bad bridges


The Tulsa World


by: GAVIN OFF World Data Editor
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
9/9/2009 4:46:40 AM


View a PDF of the Transportation Department’s construction plan.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation approved Tuesday a more than $4 billion, eight-year construction plan that includes work on more than 560 bridges and dozens of projects in the Tulsa area.

The plan, which stretches through 2017, outlines the road and bridge projects that state officials hope to tackle. The plan is normally updated each year.

The plan includes repairs or replacement of about 563 bridges, an increase of more than 100 from last year's plan, the Transportation Department said in a news release. Also planned are more than 446 miles of shoulder and other upgrades to two-lane roads, $1.9 billion in upgrades to major highways and an additional 62 miles of median barriers, the release said.

For Tulsa County, the list includes money to widen Interstate 44, build a new interchange at 116th Street North and U.S. 75, and repair bridges and pavement on the Broken Arrow Expressway.

"It is the most comprehensive plan the agency has ever had," said Gary Ridley, the state secretary of transportation and the department's director.

Ridley said work on the additional 109 bridges in this year's plan would cost about $260 million. But he said the proposed work, along with the bridge work that the department has completed in recent years, would help Oklahoma out of its deteriorating bridge crisis.

As of early 2008, Oklahoma had about 5,680 structurally deficient bridges. These are bridges in need of significant maintenance, repairs or replacement. An additional 1,788 of the state's 24,000 bridges were functionally obsolete — or too small for the traffic they carry, a Tulsa World analysis found.

"It was our opinion that it would take 12 to 15 years to work our way out of the problem," Ridley said.

Dozens of projects are slated for the Tulsa area, including work on Interstate 44, Interstate 244, U.S. 75 and Oklahoma 11.

Ridley said the department developed the plan based on a conservative estimate of available federal and state funds and construction costs. He said the federal stimulus money has helped speed some projects and allowed others to take their place.

Gary Evans, the department's director of operations, said about 87 percent of the department's $464 million of stimulus money has been obligated to projects so far.

Nearly 160 projects, totaling about $405 million, have been put out for bids. Of those, work has started on 108 projects, totaling about $357 million, Evans said. Eight projects, totaling $14.3 million, have been completed. Oklahoma ranks third in percentage of federal stimulus funds on projects put out to bid, under contract or begun.

"This is quite a great accomplishment to be third in the country," Transportation Department commission member Bruce Benbrook said.


Gavin Off 732-8106
gavin.off@tulsaworld.com

Associate Images:

Image

Construction along Interstate 44 near the Arkansas River is part of a project to widen the highway to six lanes between Riverside Drive and Yale Avenue. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World file

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