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Hereford crossing still shows splits

Hereford crossing still shows splits


McAlester News Capital
NOV. 17, 2009

By James Beaty, Senior Editor

Asphalt which has been placed over cracks to patch up the road approaches to Hereford Lane Bridge has now pulled apart — leaving gaps in the roadway just a few feet from where the new bridge spans U.S. Highway 69.

Sand and gravel placed in the cracks have not resolved the problem, either.

Rain has washed out some of the filler material, leaving the cracks as deep and wide as ever.

Oklahoma Department of Transportation Acting Division 2 Engineer Calvin Carney acknowledged that the fix was supposed to be temporary.

He said he hopes that ODOT will get the results by this week of soil that’s being tested from the site.

Opened to traffic in October 2008, the bridge abutments and road approaches to the new bridge have started to separate and crack.

A portion of one road shoulder has dropped almost two inches within a few feet of where the bridge passes over U.S. Highway 69 — one of the most heavily-traveled bridges in the state.

To try and determine what’s causing the problem, ODOT sent drilling crews to obtain core samples of the soil at the site.

“They are analyzing that material now in Oklahoma City,” Carney said on Monday afternoon.

Samples had been obtained by first drilling through concrete at the site and then taking soil samples every 18 inches, he said.

“We’re looking at the material that’s under there to see what it did or it did not do,” Carney said. He said he hopes the tests will show “what’s happening with the ‘fill’ material.”

Prior to the Hereford Lane Exchange project, 139 density tests were performed, according to Carney. The tests, among other things, were to determine the moisture content on fill material used to build up the road approaches to the bridge, according to Carney.

“We’re looking at what happened to it,” Carney said. “It could be disbursive soil.”

Asked what he meant by the term, Carney said “It’s just like when you put water on sugar — it liquefies,” he said.

Has that happened at any other bridges around McAlester?

“I’ve seen this in other areas,” Carney said. He said he saw a similar problem on Highway 59, in LeFlore County. Ultimately, ODOT used materials, including sandy soil and cement, to help fill a cavity that had formed under the highway, according to Carney.

Shouldn’t such “disbursive soil” have been detected by testing prior to the construction of the Hereford Lane project?

“Sometimes it doesn’t appear,” Carney said. “Everything is lovely and then, things happen.”

The News-Capital reported in June that approaches to the bridge were dropping and crumbling, leaving those who were driving across it to experience sudden jolts as they drove over the structure.

Following that report, ODOT put some asphalt over a portion of the bridge approaches, hoping to lessen the “bump” factor for drivers.

However, the deterioration has continued.

Edmond-based TTK Construction Co. served as contractor for the bridge project, according to ODOT. The state agency planned and contracted out work on the $7.2 million interchange.

The Hereford Lane Exchange project came about after there were a number of accidents at the old Hereford Lane Intersection, which forced drivers heading from East to West Hereford Lane to have to cross the busy U.S. Highway 69.

Included in the project were the 240-foot long bridge and its approaches, a service road and entry and exit ramps on the bridge’s north and south sides.

Now, the new interchange and bridge prevents people who are driving on East and West Hereford Lane from having to cross four lanes of Highway 69 to get to the other side.

Carney and ODOT still insist the bridge is safe and there’s no need to close it to traffic — although some local residents have started by-passing it.

Some drivers have told the News-Capital they are now sticking to the service roads and avoiding the new bridge, concerned about its safety after their vehicles hit the bumps in the roadway approaches.

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