TISHOMINGO — A group of Tishomingo business owners is pushing for an alternative plan for a bridge replacement project, saying the current project will jeopardize business revenue.
The Washita River bridge is set to be replaced in 2018. The 559-foot-long, concrete-styled bridge is more than 70 years old. It is on U.S. 377 south of Tishomingo, which is a main thoroughfare between Texas and central Oklahoma.
City officials said they believe the current construction plan and its 18-month or longer construction schedule would deal a knockout blow to the rural community of 3,800 people.
About 75 people turned out Monday to address their concerns with representatives of the state Transportation Department.
“We want to come up with an alternative to closing the bridge,” said Earl Brewer, Washita River Bridge Impact Committee chairman. “We would like for them to build a parallel bridge next to the bridge they are going to tear down. They do it all the time — all over the state.”
During the construction phase, individuals living close to the south side of the bridge will have about a 30-mile detour if they want to go to Tishomingo, Brewer said. Individuals living closer to Madill will have about a five-mile detour, he said. The frustration is not only about the extra miles people will have to drive, but also about the potential loss of revenue for Tishomingo, Brewer said.
“The detour will be troublesome — it’s not a direct route and there are train crossings,” Brewer said.
During Monday’s two-hour meeting, Transportation Department representatives listened to the concerns and they took notes, he said.
“They made an effort to listen to the community’s concerns,” Brewer said.
Having the project set for 2018 gives the community additional time to develop an alternative plan on how to handle the project, he said.
“This affects a wide area — not just Tishomingo,” Brewer said. “All the business owners had an impact study done on how this would affect their business.”
Johnson County Chamber Executive Director Seigel Heffington said local residents would appreciate a new bridge.
“We need a new bridge,” Heffington said. “We just don’t want the new businesses to be hurt.”
With country music superstar couple Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert having a home in Tishomingo, the rural community is becoming a stopping place for music fans, he said. One such stop is the Pink Pistol, a souvenir boutique shop.
“They come from all over the nation,” Heffington said. “I saw a car with a tag from Ontario, Canada.”
Bill Wilkson, a maintenance engineer with the Transportation Department, said the bridge will cost $6.5 million.
Wilkinson said he understands residents’ frustrations and the inconvenience rebuilding the bridge will cause. He noted the bridge was designed to last 50 years and crews frequently have to patch the bridge deck.