OKLAHOMA CITY — Officials say the number of structurally deficient bridges in Oklahoma has dropped from about 1,170 in 2004 to 132.
Transportation Secretary Tim Gatz told a state transportation panel Monday that Oklahoma now ranks 13th in the U.S. for fewest deficient bridges in its highway system.
About 6,800 bridges are part of Oklahoma’s system, a number that doesn’t include other spans operated by local entities such as city and county governments.
Gatz says the state Department of Transportation began setting more money aside in 2006 for bridge repairs, and lawmakers provided additional funding a few years later.
He says a finding that a bridge is deficient doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dangerous for motorists to cross. It’s an indication that some part of the bridge, such as the driving surface, needs improvements.
“That is excellent progress,” said Gatz, who also serves as head of the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Oklahoma Turnpike Authority, according to an article in the Tulsa World.
The rankings do not include bridges operated by local entities, such as city and county governments.
A structurally deficient bridge is one which has any element rated as a four or less, such as the bridge deck or driving surface, Gatz said.
Cody Boyd, ODOT spokesman, said other elements include the structural members of the bridge and the substructure, which are the foundation-type elements.
A brand new bridge is a 10, Gatz said.
“Really, structurally deficient sounds worse than it is,” said Terri Angier, an ODOT spokeswoman. “It is a ranking on a national level they use to determine whether a bridge is now eligible for federal funding. That is about all that is on a national level.”
It is not a bridge that is dangerous for people to drive over, Angier said.
Gatz said the remaining 132 structurally deficient bridges are on the department’s radar for improvements.
According to the article in the Tulsa World, Commissioner James L. Grimsley said he was impressed by the progress the department had made.
“This is significant,” Grimsley said.
The state had almost 1,200 structurally deficient bridges in 2004, Gatz said.
The state was among the worst in bridge rankings in 2004, Angier said.
The agency in 2006 began working to put funds into addressing the problem, Angier said.
The bigger push came in 2011 when then Gov. Mary Fallin supported additional funding, Angier said.
“That is really when we became really focused,” Angier said.