ODOT engineer explains why it takes years to replace deficient bridges
They're old, parts are crumbling and they sport dozens of patches.Between 400 and 500 bridges in Oklahoma have structural issues, but the 15th Street and Crutcho Creek bridges are toward the top of the problem list, says ODOT Division Engineer Brian Taylor.
Taylor says the 54-year-old bridges have outlived their 50-year design life. He has been trying to get them replaced since 2006.
"It's a very high priority," he said, "these are scheduled for 2016, my plan goes out to 2021."
Replacing them will cost $31.6 million. That's money Taylor says won't be available for another two years. So crews just keep patching the problems, even as new ones take form.
Find out how much taxpayers are paying for repairs here
Why does ODOT continue to throw money into repairs, instead of starting construction on a new bridge tomorrow?
"If we had the money we would love to advance the project and fund it," Taylor said, "until that time we have to maintain it to get it to that point."
Issues like crumbling concrete and rebar sticking out are common. They're bad enough for the bridges to be considered structurally deficient, but not unsafe for drivers yet.
"We're very conservative when it comes to making determinations about the public's safety," said Taylor.
He believes ODOT is quick to shut down a dangerous bridge, for example the one connecting Purcell and Lexington. He says drivers shouldn't worry about safety, but for those who want work to happen faster, it all comes down to money.
"We really need the support of the people and the elected officials to continue to fund our progress," he said.
And drivers should know: even after construction starts it will be years before new bridges connect Del City to the rest of the Metro.
There is a chance construction could start a little earlier than scheduled, in the fall of 2015. Taylor hopes to meet with city leaders next month to discuss the plans.
He says they will keep two lanes open to traffic during construction.
To determine priority for replacement, ODOT uses several factors such as sufficiency ratings, state of the pavement and accidents.