ODOT: Plan in place to end Oklahoma's bridge problem
Oklahoma bridges are widely known as some of the nation's worst. ODOT is one of the first to admit it.Drivers say new holes and potholes open up daily, not to mention inspection problems beneath the bridges in the all-important structure.
A two-foot hole opened up on the 63rd street bridge over I-35 Sunday night. It's the latest in a string of similar calls 1,000 maintenance worker attend to across the state.
"They're in pretty bad shape," said driver Ben Haws.
"I just moved here from California and I can't believe the potholes!" said Alinda Bowser.
Nearly 500 bridges are considered structurally deficient in Oklahoma, which is down significantly from the 1,100 in 2004. And ODOT says the entire problem will be fixed, but it won't be soon.In part, it's just that time of year.
"Usually when we see more extreme weather this is when we see more potholes," said ODOT spokesperson Cole Hackett.
But it's not all about the weather. Plenty of states experience snow and ice without facing similar road problems.
"You can crawl under just about any bridge in the state and see pieces of it falling down," said Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw).
Bennett is Vice Chair of the House Transportation Committee. He says there's one major reason why Oklahoma roads are in such bad shape.
"The Democrats had control of the state for over 100 years and they never, if you go back and historically look at it, they didn't put much money at all into roads and bridges. And now we're dealing with the affects of that," he said.
ODOT points to twenty years of stagnant funding, finally ending in 2005. Workers have replaced or addressed almost half the deficient bridges in the state since then. But the work isn't over yet.
"It took us 20 years to get to this point and it's gonna take us a little longer to be able to address some of those (bridges)," Hackett said.
He says by the end of the current ODOT 8-year-plan, deficient bridges should be almost completely eradicated from the state.
But in the meantime drivers are still frustrated.
"We have to drive on these roads and we pay taxes. I thought that's what the taxes were for," Bowser said.
The current 8-year-plan is based off of an addition $480 million Governor Fallin called for in the 2011 Bridge Improvement and Turnpike Modernization Plan.
There are no plans for additional taxpayer money to go toward highways and bridges in the current legislative session. Bennett says revenues are slim and lawmakers need to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.