The Norman Transcript

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September 16, 2013

Okla. bridges in bad shape

OKLAHOMA CITY — Despite increases in transportation funding and an aggressive program to improve the state’s roads and bridges, hundreds of Oklahoma bridges are outdated and in poor condition, according to a recent analysis of federal bridge data.

An Associated Press analysis of bridges in the National Bridge Inventory, which are subject to national standards, shows Oklahoma had 414 bridges across the state both structurally deficient and fracture critical. Citing a lag time between federal data and more recent state figures, Oklahoma transportation officials say that number has since been reduced to 348 as a result of increased funding for programs to fix and replace both state and county bridges, but they acknowledge more work needs to be done.

“A lot of people don’t realize that we have more bridges than a lot of other states,” said Terry Angier, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, who noted Oklahoma has more than 23,000 bridges statewide. “Then you combine that with 40 years of underfunding the transportation system in Oklahoma.

“But we’ve been very aggressive talking about this for the last 10 years ... putting more money into the program.”

The Associated Press analyzed data involving 607,380 bridges in the National Bridge Inventory. On a national basis, there are 65,605 structurally deficient bridges and 20,808 fracture critical bridges, according to the most recently available federal government data.

A bridge is deemed “fracture critical” when it does not have redundant protections and is at risk of collapse if a single, vital component fails. A bridge is “structurally deficient” when it is in need of rehabilitation or replacement because at least one major component of the span has advanced deterioration or other problems that lead inspectors to deem its condition “poor” or worse.

Some 7,795 bridges nationwide fall into both categories — a combination of red flags that experts say is particularly problematic.

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