Old Crosstown Expressway beams find homes throughout Oklahoma

Reusing the steel beams from the elevated Oklahoma City roadway is one of the largest public works recycling projects in the country.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: July 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm •  Published: July 15, 2013

Steel beams that were part of the old elevated Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway in Oklahoma City have a new role in nearly two-dozen county bridges throughout Oklahoma in what is considered one of the largest bridge-recycling projects in the country.

Nineteen county bridges have been built from the beams that ran parallel with the traffic under the roadway, according to Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials. Construction is underway on 10 other county bridges and plans are being developed on 40 others.

Terri Angier, a state Transportation Department spokeswoman, said 2,060 beams were salvaged from the 50-year-old bridge.

Officials originally thought about 1,800 could be reused.

So far, 360 beams have been used in the county bridge projects, she said.

It's been estimated the beams eventually could be used in at least 300 county bridges.

The beams from what was the state's longest bridge were shipped to 21 distribution points across the state in what the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials cited as one of the biggest efforts of its kind, Angier said.

“If this is not the No. 1, it's in the top few of being the largest recycling transportation project,” she said.

“We knew it was a great idea in terms of beginning the process, but we also knew it would take time for us as Oklahomans to realize what a huge success this story is in terms of recycling, saving taxpayers' dollars, reusing materials and helping county bridges all at the same time.”

Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said transportation industry experts believe the Crosstown recycling project is one of the largest of its kind ever.

“By recycling hundreds of steel beams, not only is ODOT saving taxpayers millions of dollars today, it's helping to create a legacy of bridges across the state which will serve Oklahomans for years to come,” he said.

Part of a $12.4 million demolition contract called for salvaging as many as possible of the more than 2,000 steel beams under the deck of the nearly 2-mile-long elevated Crosstown Expressway.

The beams were inspected, and those deemed safe were made available at no cost to counties. Work started early last year and finished in November.

Most of the beams are 33 inches thick and are at least 60 feet long. A typical county bridge that spans 50 feet would use five beams; estimated value of each beam is about $8,000. Counties must have enough money to pay for the other costs of building a bridge.

Angier said the beams have an estimated value of at least $10 million.

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