OKLAHOMA CITY —
The Oklahoma Legislature in 2005 diverted an increasing portion of the state’s income tax to fund road and bridge repairs, and Gov. Mary Fallin last year signed a bill to increase the share of motor vehicle excise taxes, licenses and fees that are used to fund county improvements to roads and bridges.
Nearly 300 of Oklahoma’s bridges that are both fracture critical and structurally deficient are county bridges, not part of the state highway system. Many are in smaller, rural counties with numerous creeks and waterways and without the funds to quickly replace outdated bridges.
Ray Vaughn, a commissioner in the state’s most populous county, Oklahoma County, said there were three fracture-critical bridges in his district when he took office in 2007. All have been replaced as part of an emphasis on replacing those designs following the 2007 collapse of an interstate bridge in Minneapolis that killed 13 people, he said.
“Because of the attention focused on that design as a result of the Minnesota bridge collapse, there was a real effort made to get rid of the fracture critical bridges as a priority,” Vaughn said.
While fracture-critical bridges have been a priority, structurally deficient bridges also have been targeted for replacement or repair. According to ODOT, the number of structurally deficient county bridges dropped from 4,636 in 2011 to 3,552 in 2012.
Bill Frank Lance, a commissioner in Murray County in south-central Oklahoma for 27 years, said the effort over the last decade to replace and repair outdated county bridges has dramatically picked up momentum.
“It hasn’t been something that occurred overnight,” Lance said. “It took a long time to get these funding mechanisms set to where they are today.”