The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is involved in a massive recycling project that will significantly reduce consumption of resources.
We're not talking about placing used papers into special bins. The agency's recycling project will help build hundreds of bridges, allowing safer travel for drivers across Oklahoma.
The process of tearing down the old elevated Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway in Oklahoma City is yielding materials that help build other bridges across the state while saving money. This is good news for Oklahomans who continue to face some of the worst bridges in the country, and it's being done in a cost-effective way.
There are about 1,800 steel beams in the old Crosstown bridge and as many as 1,500 will be used for county bridges.
The recycling project could save $8 million and build at least 300 50-foot bridges, if not more. That's significant, because Oklahoma has far too many subpar bridges.
A new federal report ranks Oklahoma among the worst states in the country based on the number of structurally deficient bridges. It's estimated 4,600 of 16,000 bridges in Oklahoma achieve that dubious distinction.
County bridges are a major cause of the ranking. Significant funding has repaired many state highway bridges in recent years. Just 634 of the 4,600 deficient bridges are on state roads. And that backlog of deficient bridges on state roads is scheduled for elimination in coming years thanks to legislation approved in the 2012 session.
In the meantime, the reuse of Crosstown beams addresses a portion of county bridge needs. The 300 bridges built with old beams will make a significant dent in the backlog of bad bridges on county roads. Although hundreds more will still remain, it's good to see policymakers stretching limited taxpayer dollars further to address a pressing need.