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Oklahoma launches rapid bridge-building program

Parts of a new bridge will be built next to an existing two-way bridge over Cottonwood Creek in Creek County. The method is expected to reduce the time motorists either will have to take a detour or be restricted to one lane from nine months to 21 days.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: December 3, 2012

White said a lot of land around the bridge is open.

Workers will build the top part of the new bridge structure next to the existing bridge while crews work on the piers and foundation underneath the existing bridge, he said.

“They'll tear out the old bridge and slide that (new structure) into the location,” White said.

Ridley said the cost of an accelerated bridge project likely will be more expensive than a traditional bridge rebuilding project. But motorists aren't affected nearly as long and the state gets a new bridge built quicker.

Other states have used the accelerated bridge-building approach, and Oklahoma transportation officials believe the method is preferable for some projects, Ridley said.

The state Transportation Department used a similar approach in 2002 to rebuild a portion of the Interstate 40 bridge over the Arkansas River near Webbers Falls in 47 days, which set a national record for a project of that size. Two barges hit the bridge, sending a 580-foot segment of the bridge, which typically carried 20,000 vehicles per day, into the Arkansas River. Fourteen people were killed when their vehicles plunged into the river.

Ridley said a speedy repair was necessary because of concerns over the high volume of big-truck traffic being rerouted to two-lane highways and unsafe bridges.

“We were running interstate traffic on narrow two-lane roads and we had at least a dozen bridges that we had serious concerns about,” Ridley said. “We had to get traffic off of those detours as quickly as we could.”