NORMAN — A decade ago, state highway department officials said some of Oklahoma’s bridges that carried school buses were new in the horse and buggy days.
Great progress has been made in the past few years in replacing those spans, but the state and counties still have a long way to go.
An aggressive building program has reduced the number of deficient bridges from 414 to 348 in the past few years.
State transportation officials told The Associated Press that Oklahoma has more than 23,000 bridges statewide. Most of those bridges are county bridges and are not part of the state highway system.
Nationally, an analysis by The Associated Press shows 65,605 bridges are structurally deficient and 20,808 are fracture critical, meaning they do not have redundancies built into the design and could collapse if a single component fails.
Oklahoma lawmakers, at the urging of transportation planners, began addressing the bad bridge backlog after the Webbers Falls I-40 bridge collapse on Memorial Day weekend in 2002. Fourteen people, including two Norman residents, died when a barge collided with a bridge pier.
Traffic, estimated at 20,000 cars per day, was detoured for two months onto an older bridge. That got state officials to thinking about overall bridge safety.