- The Oklahoma Transportation Commission on Sept. 10 voted unanimously to approve the state Department of Transportation's eight-year, $6.1 billion infrastructure plan. The plan is updated each year according to expected funding, and projects are reprioritized so that the state's most critical road and bridge needs can be met.
- The "Construction Work Plan" for fiscal years 2019-2026 lays out a year-by-year agenda of projects that transportation officials expect to execute, with annual spending falling between $724 million and a little more than $787 million. In the fiscal year 2019, the DOT plans to spend a total of $787.2 million, an amount that includes the nearly $132 million U.S. 69 project in Bryan County, Oklahoma, and the $78 million Interstate 44 project in Oklahoma County. Altogether, the plan covers 1,386 projects and includes 686 bridge replacements or rehabilitations, as well as 720 miles of shoulders or improvements to two-lane highways.
- According to Mike Patterson, executive director of the ODOT and transportation secretary, the state's current eight-year plan has been instrumental in reducing the number of Oklahoma's structurally deficient bridges from 1,168 in 2004 to 168 last year. Those remaining bridges are scheduled to be repaired or replaced in the next two years. The commission also approved a $473 million asset preservation plan, which features maintenance projects intended to extend the useful life of the state's highways, and an $877 million program of county road and bridge improvements.
The Federal Highway Administration maintains data on deficient bridges that are part of the National Highway System as well as state and local bridges, and the most recent information has the number of Oklahoma's deficient NHS bridges pegged at 86 out of 3,269. However, out of the state's 23,071 bridges, more than 3,200 are deficient. According to the administration, there are approximately 240 million square feet of deficient bridges in the U.S., both federal, state and local, with California (18.7 million square feet), New York (15.5 million square feet), Louisiana (15 million square feet) and Illinois (14.7 million square feet) leading the way.
State transportation departments often reevaluate the structural integrity of their inventories of bridges after a high-profile failure like the collapse of the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy. The Aug. 14 incident killed more than 40 people, with the final cause yet to be determined. However, an Associated Press report indicated that experts told Genoa officials that corrosion of bridge cables had weakened it by approximately 20%.
In the U.S., the National Transportation Safety Board is also still investigating the collapse of a pedestrian walkway bridge on the Florida International University campus in Miami. The agency has not come to an official conclusion as to the cause but, in a preliminary report, released photographs of large cracks in the bridge prior to the collapse, some of which appear to be located at the area where the bridge reportedly failed.
To address the issue of bridge safety and the need for a program of replacement or rehabilitative construction, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in January proposed the Bridge Investment Act, which would provide $75 million in competitive state bridge repair grants during a period of 10 years. The proposal had the backing of the construction industry and many lawmakers but is still under review by the U.S. Senate Committee on Environmental and Public Works.