OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - State officials began expediting the examination of 15 Oklahoma bridges with similar construction to the one that collapsed last week in Minneapolis, transportation officials said Monday.
Thirteen teams of engineers began inspecting bridges on Monday in a process that should take between 30 and 45 days, Department of Transportation Director Gary Ridley told transportation commissioners Monday.
The Oklahoma bridges to be inspected are of a deck truss design, although none are exactly like the one in Minneapolis, which included a steel arch with its deck truss design.
“I expect them to work seven days a week until they have been reinspected,” Ridley said.
Of the 15 Oklahoma bridges, four are state-owned, 10 are county-owned and one is owned by the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority. ODOT is paying for the inspections on all but the one bridge owned by the Turnpike Authority, which is paying for the inspection for that bridge on the Will Rogers Turnpike portion of Interstate 44 in Ottawa County.
The only counties with more than one deck truss bridge are Jackson, which has three, and Ottawa, which has two. One apiece can be found in Kiowa, Pittsburg, Seminole, Alfalfa, Comanche, Lincoln, McCurtain, Love, Choctaw and Cleveland counties. The 15 bridges were built between 1914 and 1966.
The inspection announcement comes after U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters signed off on an advisory that was sent by the Federal Highway Administration urging state transportation departments to conduct inspections of bridges similar to the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed Wednesday, killing five people and leaving at least eight missing.
“These bridges were designed many years ago, and (deck truss design) was the state of the art at the time,” Ridley said. “But we've learned since then that we need to have redundancy in bridges, so that if a structure member would fail, there would be something else that would help hold the bridge up.”
Ridley said 62 other bridges on the state system deemed as “fracture critical” - including the Interstate 40 “Crosstown Expressway” in Oklahoma City - will be inspected immediately after the deck truss bridge inspections. A “fracture critical” bridge is one that if certain parts of the structure failed, the whole bridge would collapse, Ridley said.
He said that if engineers determine a bridge to be unsafe, it can be closed.
“We've done that in the past and we wouldn't think twice about doing that in the future,” he said.
Federal law requires bridges to be inspected every two years, but John Fuller, the deputy director and chief engineer for the ODOT, has said Oklahoma bridges are inspected between every six months to a year.
In other business, the commission approved allowing ODOT to arrange for a cost-and-benefit analysis of the possibility of the state taking over a 4-mile portion of the 17.3-mile Chickasaw Turnpike from the state Turnpike Authority.
The portion runs from Oklahoma Highway 7 west of Sulphur to U.S. Highway 177 north of Sulphur.
The two-lane turnpike between Sulphur and Ada opened in 1991.
State Transportation Secretary and Turnpike Authority Director Phil Tomlinson told commission members that since the turnpike was built, there has been speculation it could be someday turned over to ODOT for inclusion in the state highway system.