OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma highway bridge conditions are “making the grade” by moving from among the worst in the nation to the head of the class, achieving Top 10 status for the first time by ranking ninth this year, according to the latest data from the Federal Highway Administration (FWA).
The state ranked as low as 49th place in 2004 in national bridge-condition rankings due to the number of structurally deficient bridges on the state highway system. At that time, nearly 1,200 of Oklahoma’s 6,800 highway bridges needed major rehabilitation or replacement.
“‘Top 10’ isn’t just a slogan. It is the vision that helps form and guide our road map to improving state government and changing the future of all 4 million Oklahomans for the better,” said Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt. “Transportation is the backbone of the economy, and this designation shows Oklahoma is a new national leader in highway bridge infrastructure thanks to the dedication of ODOT employees and an unprecedented investment in our bridges by the Legislature.”
In 2005, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) embarked on a massive effort to improve highway bridges after decades of underfunding to transportation infrastructure took a toll, causing a backlog of critically needed projects. A targeted approach to fixing the state’s bridges began taking shape through a series of legislative funding mechanisms and identifying key funding opportunities by the congressional delegation.
The rehabilitation effort took an even more aggressive approach in 2011, when the state’s Bridge Improvement and Turnpike Modernization Plan was announced. One of the goals of the plan was to specifically reduce the structurally deficient highway bridges to 1% and have a manageable bridge system by the end of the decade.
“This overhaul on our highway bridges took more than 15 years and has only been possible thanks to the consistent vision and support of our governors, legislators and congressional delegates,” said Tim Gatz, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Transportation. “We also have to thank Oklahomans for making transportation a priority. With significant citizen support, this issue rose to the top of state needs. This unprecedented program was only possible with a united focus on Oklahoma’s future.”
Today, only 86 highway bridges are now considered as structurally deficient, based on bridge inspection data submitted to the FHWA by states for its 2019 report — and each of those remaining bridges is already scheduled for improvements through ODOT’s eight-year construction plan.
Off-system bridges on city streets or county roads are separately maintained by local governments, and account for an additional 16,000 structures statewide that have their own critical needs and funding challenges. National studies often combine the highway and off-system bridges into one lump overview. Oklahoma’s current Top 10 ranking is for bridges within the state highway system.
ODOT will diligently look for ways to continue to address older bridges through consistent planning and preservation efforts to ensure that Oklahoma maintains its Top 10 bridge condition status, Gatz said.
For more information about upcoming bridge and pavement projects, visit the ODOT website.
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