Eastbound Interstate 44 between Pennsylvania Avenue and Northwest Expressway remained narrowed to one lane as of noon, and the eastbound on-ramp from Northwest Expressway to I-44 remained closed for emergency bridge repairs.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials estimate the closure could last until late afternoon but think the lanes will reopen before evening rush hour. Drivers should expect long delays and are encouraged to find an alternate route.
The heat and the aging interstate were blamed for the buckling of a steel expansion joint, which damaged several vehicles before two lanes of the interstate were closed Monday morning by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Parts of the joint have risen above the buckled concrete.
“We really want to caution people who are driving this morning, especially people who are on motorcycles,” patrol spokeswoman Betsy Randolph said earlier. The extreme heat could cause asphalt to buckle across central Oklahoma, Randolph said.
Motorists along I-44 eastbound between Northwest Expressway and Broadway Extension could be seen pulling off the interstate after hitting the expanded joint on top of the Belle Isle bridge near Classen Boulevard and above Northwest Expressway.
The lanes were closed about 5:45 a.m., the patrol reported. The eastbound I-44 on-ramp from Northwest Expressway was closed about 7:30 a.m.
A trooper was called to a report of debris on the Belle Isle bridge about 5:30 a.m.
The trooper was able to use a flashlight to see that steel parts of the expansion joint had risen in the
“It's not something we can just do a quick patch on,” Randolph said. “It's going to take a little bit, so we ask for motorists to be patient with us.”
Transportation Department spokeswoman Mills Gotcher said she could not speculate on the cause of the problem, but she said expansion joints often are affected by extreme temperature. About 7:30 a.m., Gotcher said workers attributed the problem to the age of the bridge and not the extreme heat alone. The bridge was built in 1975.