Bad Bridges: Oklahoma is No. 3 - - Texoma news, weather and sports

Bad Bridges: Oklahoma is No. 3

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You drive across bridges every day without giving it a second thought.

But bridges across America are not in good shape.

A report by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association uses government data to illustrate just how bad things are:

  • Structurally Deficient Bridges
    • 54,300 nationwide
    • 3,234 are in Oklahoma (that number is higher in only two other states, Iowa and Pennsylvania)
    • 847 are in Texas

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation says is oversees 251 of the state's structurally deficient spans.

"'Structurally deficient' doesn't mean it's dangerous," explained Jay Earp, an ODOT engineer. "It's just a bridge that has some parts of it that are deteriorating rapidly, and we have to keep a close eye on."

We visited a bridge over the Washita River in Davis, Oklahoma to get a first-hand look at the damage with ODOT maintenance engineer Tracy Terrill.

"If you really look at it here... see? I can just take that and peel it away," he said, brushing corroded metal from a large bolt.

This particular bridge was deemed deficient in January after having been checked just two years earlier.

"That plate should come out and surround that anchor bolt there, but you can see that the plate has corroded away... and the bolt is not in the greatest shape, either," Terrill said.

When experts find problems like these, it begins a long and difficult road to making repairs. Even though a similar project would take about four to five months to complete, it could take as long as five years before funding is available.

ODOT says its repair budget is an issue that continues to get more serious.

"Usually, as years go on, the budget might increase because costs are going up as time goes on," Earp said. "But our budget the last two years has actually decreased."

ODOT receives less than 5 percent of the state's total budget to begin with, and the agency is responsible for a total of 6,800 bridges statewide.

Right now, they are at the beginning of an eight-year work plan to fix as many structurally deficient bridges as possible, but with state budget issues, they can only work so fast.

"For the first time during the re-balance for this current eight-year work plan, we had to take three projects out," Earp said. "So funding is a concern right now."

In the meantime, construction can take a while, resulting in traffic delays or forcing motorists to use a different route.

ODOT said while the goal is to always have zero deficient bridges, it's virtually impossible when more spans join the list each day.

"So the idea of catching up... I think we'll get close, but I don't know if we'll ever get there," Earp said.

The federal government has proposed a $1.5 trillion plan to fix the nation's roads and bridges.

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