Bridges: Oklahoma Goes from Worst to Top Ten

Mike Seals - August 13, 2020 10:18 pm

State nabs Top 10 national ranking for good conditions

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, according to the latest data from the Federal Highway Administration.

The state was 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.

“Top Ten 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,” Gov. Kevin Stitt said. “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.”

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation embarked in 2005 on a massive effort to improve highway bridges after decades of under funding to transportation infrastructure took a toll, causing a backlog of critically needed projects. A targeted approach to fixing bridges began taking shape through a series of legislative funding mechanisms and identifying key funding opportunities by the congressional delegation.

“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,” Oklahoma Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz said. “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.”

Bridges in Oklahoma – Key Facts

  • Value of highway system in Oklahoma is $60 billion, making it Oklahoma’s No. 1 physical asset.
  • In 2004, nearly 1,200 of Oklahoma’s 6,800 highway bridges were considered structurally deficient, meaning they showed signs of needing major rehabilitation or replacement.
  • This momentum took an even more aggressive approach in 2011, when the “Bridge Improvement and Turnpike Modernization Plan” was announced. One of its goals was to specifically reduce the structurally deficient highway bridges to 1 percent and have a manageable bridge system by the end of the decade.
  • Today, 86 highway bridges are now considered as structurally deficient, based on bridge inspection data submitted to the FHWA by states for its 2019 report. 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, which 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, but it’s important to note this new ranking is for the highway system.

The department 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.

More information about upcoming bridge and pavement projects may be found online at https://www.odot.org.

Bridge media briefingGov. Kevin Stitt and Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz, left, announced Thursday that Oklahoma has moved into the Top 10 in nationwide good bridge conditions. Oklahoma now ranks ninth in the nation after more than 15 years of targeted efforts to decrease the number of structurally deficient bridges on the state highway system.

State Rep. Avery Frix, R-Muskogee, chair of the House Transportation Committee, and other Republican members of the committee today issued a joint statement on the announcement by Gov. Kevin Stitt that the state is now ranked ninth in the nation for the status of highway bridge conditions, according to the latest data from the Federal Highway Administration. This includes interstates, U.S. highways and state highways that are ODOT’s responsibility.

“Since Republicans took the majority in the Legislature more than a decade ago, we have made transportation a priority,” Frix said. “We’ve worked diligently each year to fully fund our Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s eight-year plan and our County Infrastructure for Roads and Bridges plan to maintain state and rural roadways and to repair or replace hundreds of structurally deficient or obsolete bridges throughout the state. Today’s news that we have achieved top ten status for the condition of our ODOT-maintained highway bridges is a fantastic endorsement of our commitment.

“Safe and well-maintained infrastructure is the economic lifeline of our state, as it helps us move our families and our products safely and efficiently. It’s another reason to claim Oklahoma as a hub for families and major businesses. Again, this year we made transportation a priority in our state budget, and we will continue that effort so that someday we will be No. 1 in both roads and bridges in America.”

In addition to Chairman Frix, Republican members of the House Transportation Committee include Vice Chair Rep. Ronny Johns, R-Ada, and members Reps. Dean Davis, R-Broken Arrow; Jim Grego, R-Wilburton; Tommy Hardin, R-Madill; Kenton Patzkowsky, R-Balko; Logan Phillips, R-Mounds; Marilyn Stark, R-Bethany; and Kevin West, R-Moore. Republican members of the House Appropriations & Budget Subcommittee on Transportation include Chair Todd Russ, R-Cordell; Vice Chair Nicole Miller, R-Edmond; Denise Crosswhite Hader, R-Piedmont; Dell Kerbs, R-Shawnee; Lundy Kiger, R-Poteau; Ryan Martinez, R-Edmond; and Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks.

The members said transportation had been underfunded for decades prior to Republicans taking the majority of seats in the state Legislature since 2005. In 2004, nearly 1,200 of Oklahoma’s 6,800 highway bridges were considered structurally deficient, and the state was ranked as low as 49th place in national bridge condition rankings. That number has been reduced to 86 today, with each of those already scheduled for repair on ODOT’s eight-year plan, according to the department. In addition, the current $879 million CIRB plan calls for replacement or rehabilitation of 313 bridges, 151 that are structurally deficient, over the next five years. These structures are maintained separately by counties.

The Legislature’s support for ODOT for FY20 totaled $905,523,856 in appropriated and dedicated state funding, a 248% increase in investment from FY06. In FY06, such funding for ODOT equaled $260,202,897.

 

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