Minnesota's tragedy reminds Oklahomans of their own

Oklahoma_ The collapse of one of the busiest bridges in the nation has many asking questions about bridges they cross every day.  The Oklahoma Department of Transportation, in a press conference Thursday, said many of our highway bridges were built more than 75 years ago and they're worn out, functionally obsolete and many are just plain dangerous under the speed and weight of modern traffic.

In the U.S., there are an estimated 600,000 bridges.  But, the Center for International and Strategic Studies says that more than a quarter of those bridges are structurally unstable.  As the Minnesota bridge collapse illustrates, in an instant, a modern marvel can turn to tragedy.

In Oklahoma, we know this all too well.  In May 2002, a section of the Webber Falls bridge spanning the Arkansas River collapsed when a barge rammed into it, taking 14 lives.  Some of the deadliest bridge collapses in the U.S. have occurred since 1980.  Here are just some of those collapsed bridges:

  • On May 9,1990, 35 people were killed in the collapse of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa, Florida after a ship hit it during a storm.
  • April, 1987, a bridge on the New York State Thruway near Amsterdam, NY gave way, killing ten people
  • The Queen Isabella Causeway in Texas collapsed in Sept. 2001 after a tow boat captain lost control of a string of barges and currents drove them into a bridge support.  Eight people were killed after their vehicles fell 85 feet into the channel.

Who checks our local bridges here in Oklahoma and are we vulnerable on a day to day basis?  "Since the flooding the past couple of months, we are in the process of inspecting every state highway bridge in our division," Jay Earp from ODOT said.  "We have some concerns about the score while we look at that we will look at structure problems.  The citizens should be aware that we look at every bridge every 6 months."  Pictures are also taken every two years and sent to ODOT for review.  Citizens of Oklahoma can help.  If you see any spots of rust, water erosion or anything else suspicious along a bridge and it seems to be a problem, please contact your local ODOT Officer or the Highway Patrol.

Earp checks out the bridges in nine counties, all here in Southwest Oklahoma.  He's based in Duncan and you can call him if you see anything that may be of concern.

His number is 580-255-7586.