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Interstate construction moving faster than expected

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LAWTON, Okla._After months of lane closures and detours in Lawton's stretch of I-44, relief may be finally in sight.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation says contracted crews have been working hard on repairing four interstate bridges within the city since February, and that work has paid off. Officials are now reporting that the project is ahead of schedule and could open before originally planned.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation says they're very pleased with the progress that's happened on the thoroughfares in such a relatively short amount of time. Right now, they're hoping to have all roadways back open by September 1, one month earlier than originally planned.

The $5 million bridge project on I-44 is way ahead of schedule, but ODOT engineer Jay Earp says it hasn't been all smooth sailing for contractors as they've refurbished the four bridges in town.

"We've had a few problems here and there, especially when you're rehabbing old bridges. Sometimes the old bridges weren't built as the original plans showed.

Just minor problems, minor adjustments," said Earp.

The biggest setback of the project has been surrounding a large foundation beam on the Cache Road exit bridge. Officials say sometime before construction, a large truck hit the underside of the bridge, bending the beam. That damage has cost officials nearly $30,000 extra since the beginning of construction.

"We found that by surprise. That's one of the little hiccups you run into in this type of project. And it has the potential for a little bit of delay on that bridge," said Earp.

But even with that delay factored in, Earp says ODOT is confident they'll have the exits reopened by September and that's a huge relief for not just crews and engineers, but the ones hitting the road everyday.

"We're always appreciative that they pay attention to the signs and the speed limits, they keep our people safe, the contractors' people safe and other motorists safe. In the end, they're going to have four nice new bridge surfaces to drive on," said Earp.

These four bridges won't just be structurally pleasing; they'll be looking good too. ODOT has partnered with the city of Lawton to paint buffalo and prairie grass on the sides of each bridge on the tri-level when it's all said and done.

And even more good news for drivers, ODOT says they plan to re-open all four lanes on I-44 sometime in August, even before the exits are completed.


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