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Despite warnings, trucks still using dangerous Coal Creek bridge

Despite warnings, trucks still using dangerous Coal Creek bridge

This article first appeared in the McAlster News Capitol.

Trucks allowed to pass over damaged Tannehill bridge

By James Beaty
Senior Editor

April 22, 2009 11:37 am

An engineer is expected to be in McAlester on Thursday to examine the Coal Creek Bridge on the Lake Road between McAlester and Tannehill to help determine the best way to repair the damaged structure.

Meanwhile, Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns and Undersheriff J. W. Young were at the bridge this morning as part of an effort to keep heavy trucks off the bridge — which now has a three-ton weight limit.

Kerns said he had also been at the bridge on Tuesday afternoon.

“All my reserves and officers were busy so I went out there myself,” Kerns said.

The sheriff said four big trucks were unable to turn around at the bridge site while he was there Tuesday and so they traveled over it.

District 3 Commissioner Donald Mathis had asked him to record which trucks went over the bridge.

“He asked me to write down the truck company name and the weight and he’s going to turn it over to the state,” Kerns said. A truck’s weight is posted on the vehicle, he said.

The sheriff said he had been at the bridge about 40 minutes this morning and no trucks had passed over the bridge while he had been at the site.

The old metal bridge has long been considered dangerous by locals and experts alike.

Now, the single lane bridge is considered even more dangerous since it’s been structurally damaged.

Since it’s been hit with structural damage, its load limit has been lowered from 22 tons to the current three tons.

Damage includes a cracked support beam and a partially crushed guard rail, which Mathis figures had been caused by a heavy truck hitting the side of the narrow bridge.

An inspection report prepared for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation shows the vertical guard rail has been bent nine inches out of alignment.

The report also shows the metal support beam is fractured where it connects to a plate holding the bridge.

Mathis said a representative from Perez Engineering in Edmond will assess the bridge damage when he examines it on Thursday.
“We’ll know more about it then,” Mathis said.

The company is expected to provide advice on the best way to repair the bridge and give the county commissioners an idea of how much it will cost.

Pittsburg County commissioners posted the new load limits last Friday, but Mathis said trucks weighing more than the load limit continued to cross it — prompting him to contact the sheriff’s department, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

Signs have been placed on Lake Road, prior to the bridge approach, warning that truck traffic is prohibited on the damaged bridge.
Contact James Beaty at

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