A $6 billion, eight-year highway and bridge construction plan was adopted Monday by the Oklahoma Transportation Commission.
The plan includes almost 2,000 individual projects to be completed by 2021, including replacing or rehabbing 924 bridges and improving 657 miles of two-lane highways and 552 miles of high-volume highways and interstates.
The plan is funded by a combination of federal and state transportation dollars. Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials said the construction plan and a separate initiative to preserve existing roads and bridges will ensure that all remaining structurally deficient bridges in the state will be repaired or replaced by the end of the decade.
“We're focused on our bridge problems,” Transportation Department Executive Director Mike Patterson said.
The commission also awarded contracts to repair or replace 52 bridges, including 20 that are structurally deficient. Seventeen are part of the county road system, Patterson said.
Oklahoma's bridges were ranked worst in the nation in 2005 by the Road Information Program, a nonprofit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C. It also said then Oklahoma led the country in structurally deficient bridges.
Since then, state lawmakers have made funding roads and bridges a priority, allowing the Transportation Department to reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges from a high of 1,168 in 2004 to 556 last year.
Legislation was approved in 2006 to increase funding from about $200 million to almost $569 million with incremental increases in appropriations, according to the agency.
The construction plan focuses on bridge replacement and repair as well as another transportation issue that Patterson said is his agency's next big challenge — pavement problems.
“We're not going to get out of the pavement problem in one year,” he said. “It'll take a number of years to do that.”
One project in the plan that's already underway is two phases of the Interstate 44/Interstate 235 interchange reconstruction in Oklahoma City. The additional projects are scheduled to begin in 2015.
The plan also fully funds the $125 million reconstruction of the Interstate 35 and Interstate 240 interchange on Oklahoma City's southeast side, as well as a $20 million project to replace the U.S. 169 truss bridges over Bird Creek between Tulsa and Owasso, which has been advanced to 2015.
The commission also addressed county roads and bridges, approving a five-year, $900 million improvement plan. Commissioners approved an unrelated $26 million contract to reconnect the east end of the new I-40 Crosstown Expressway to downtown Oklahoma City. Construction on that project is expected to begin early next year.
The county road and bridge plan continues the agency's efforts to use more than 2,000 recycled bridge beams from the old I-40 expressway bridge for use on county bridge replacement projects. Since late 2012, more than 25 county bridge projects have used recycled beams and 13 more are under construction.
We're not going to get out of the pavement problem in one year. It'll take a number of years to do that.”
Transportation Department executive director