Oklahoma DOT Tackles Multiple Bridge Projects in Tulsa
Highway reconstruction and bridge rehabilitation projects are in high gear in the Tulsa area, with Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) projects underway on every major highway in the metropolitan area. Approximately 500 bridges and 1,100 highway lane miles are maintained by ODOT in Tulsa County alone, making for an extensive highway network.
Prior to 2005, state highway funding in Oklahoma had remained stagnant for decades, causing a backlog of critically needed projects. Thanks to targeted funding in recent years, however, the department to has been able to tackle many of these projects - including numerous improvements to Tulsa County highways. These include major pavement reconstruction on I-244, widening and reconstructing sections of I-44, building a multi-modal bridge on I-244 over the Arkansas River, and replacing many structurally deficient bridges.
The list of current Tulsa ODOT projects includes targeted bridges, part of a continuing state focus on a key area for safety. As Randle White, Division Engineer for ODOT, explains, "For many years, Oklahoma had the unfortunate distinction of topping many of the bad bridge lists nationwide. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation maintains 6,800 highway bridges and in 2004 nearly 1,200 of those were considered structurally deficient. Thanks to targeted and increased funding, along with a goal set by Governor Mary Fallin in 2011 to reduce the SD bridge numbers to less than 1 percent by the end of the decade, the current number of SD bridges is at 251 as of 2016.
"We have been very aggressive this past decade in replacing or rehabilitating our structurally deficient bridges, and are on track to meet our goal and make our state known for having good highway bridges."
145th East Avenue Bridge
Among the large current Tulsa projects is a $31 million bridge replacement for the 145th East Avenue bridge over I-44. The project, which began in February, will also widen a mile-long section of I-44 in the corridor, from four lanes to six. The existing bridge was built in 1958 and is considered functionally obsolete; average daily traffic is currently more than 72,000 vehicles, and is expected to rise to over 115,000 in the future.
White comments, "We have recently been making numerous widening and operational improvements to the I-44 corridor through Tulsa. Many sections of it were in place before the creation of the interstate system, and as a result the interstate was a narrow four-lane facility with aging pavement and bridge and congestion issues. The improvements are addressing critical bridge and pavement conditions, along with widening this area to 10 lanes to better accommodate current and future traffic needs. This segment at 145th East Avenue is one of the last remaining sections to address on the eastern side of Tulsa between the I-44/I-244 eastern split and the eastern State Highway 66 junction."
The overall project is expected to complete in late spring 2018, White reports. Sherwood Construction Co., Inc. is the primary contractor.
Bridges at the I-44/I-244 Junction
Recently underway is a $5.8 million project to rehabilitate four bridges at the I-44/I-244
junction on the west side of Tulsa. Becco Contractors, Inc. is the primary contractor on this project, which will necessitate lane and ramp closures throughout the construction period, and is expected to last until next summer. The work includes repairs to the substructure and decks of the bridges, according to ODOT. The affected bridges include:
"¢ East and westbound I-44 over 38th West Avenue
"¢ Westbound I-44 over eastbound I-244
"¢ Eastbound Gilcrease Expressway ramp to westbound I-44
Says White, "The bridges in this project were all built in 1978, and the two I-44 bridges over 38th West Avenue have unfortunately become examples of structurally deficient bridges in need of critical repairs. This area is a major junction point for interstate traffic, and although it is a challenge to have lanes reduced during the project, it is imperative to keep the traffic flow open in this corridor to avoid long detour routes."
23rd Street Bridge Over I-244
Work began in the spring of 2016 on a $20 million bridge rehabilitation project on the 23rd Street bridge over I-244. Traffic continues to use the 1,000-foot-long bridge during construction, although the road on the bridge has been narrowed from two lanes to one.
Pier protection is a major component of the project, which will extend into early 2018. Becco Contractors is also the primary contractor on this project.
White reports, "This critical safety improvement project is addressing the future safety of this vital bridge in Tulsa, which was built in 1962 and has average daily traffic of 15,800 vehicles. It is one of the few highway access points into this industrial area and spans over the highway and a rail yard. The bridge has been hit four times in past two years due to train derailments and is also considered structurally deficient."
One challenge of the project has been working over the active BNSF rail yard at the same time rail construction crews are working on an unrelated project to expand the rail yard. Says White, "We have timed this rehabilitation project to coincide with work by the rail company on their tracks below. We're reconfiguring piers and adding crash walls to help better protect the bridge. The decks are also being replaced along with additional substructure work."
In a separate project, a retaining wall was also constructed along the adjacent rail yard in the corridor.
Inner Dispersal Loop
Wildcat Construction Company is heading up a $7.2 million project to rehabilitate four bridges along the southeast corner of the Inner Dispersal Loop in downtown Tulsa. As part of this project, which began at the first of the year and is expected to be completed in early 2018, bridge joints are being replaced and repairs are being completed on the decks and superstructures. The bridges, which are part of the project, include:
"¢ The northbound U.S. 75/eastbound U.S. 64/SH 51 off-ramp to northbound U.S. 75
"¢ The southbound U.S. 75 off-ramp to southbound U.S. 75/westbound U.S. 64/SH 51
"¢ The Cincinnati Avenue bridge over U.S. 75/U.S. 64/SH 51
"¢ The eastbound U.S. 64/SH 51 on-ramp from 8th Street
Built in 1971, The Inner Dispersal Loop (IDL) is a vital transportation link surrounding downtown Tulsa; it includes portions of I-244, I-444, U.S. 75, U.S. 64 and SH 51, with more than 62,000 vehicles traveling on it each day. White comments, "We have rehabilitated or replaced more than 50 bridges around or connected to the Loop since 2009, and have planned additional pavement and bridge projects to address the remaining areas. The bridges on the southeast corner are a vital link for traffic in and out of downtown Tulsa. During a 2015 inspection, the Cincinnati Avenue bridge over the south leg of the IDL was load-posted after crews discovered water had seeped through the expansion joints and caused deterioration at the concrete joints.
"This bridge also exits traffic to 15th Street and to eastbound U.S. 64/SH 51 which is also known as the Broken Arrow Expressway, so the posting was causing an impact to traffic."
A Seven-Year Highway Plan
The importance that Oklahoma places on bridge replacement or repair is reflected in a 2017-2024 highway plan which calls for nearly $6.4 billion in federal and state transportation funding on a total of 1,616 projects, which will include 824 highway bridge replacements or repairs, among other improvements. ODOT has placed a priority and focused available resources on this chronic problem in recent years, and the number of bridge-related Tulsa area projects, which are just a part of a wide-ranging list of road improvement projects in the metropolitan area, clearly illustrate this focus.
Results of these efforts are already evident - the state is on track to meet the goal of seeing its structurally deficient highway bridge numbers drop to near zero by the end of the decade. It is significant to note that in a recent report from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, which focused on states with the greatest reduction in structurally deficient bridges (both highway bridges and off-system bridges) over the past decade, Oklahoma was at the top of the list.