AFTON — A bit of history will soon be gone.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation will begin a project Monday, Feb. 18 that will replace the Horse Creek bridge on the east side of Afton.

The project, located on US-60, is expected to cost nearly $4 million.

It’s one of two major projects in Ottawa County that are part of ODOT’s Eight Year Plan to replace older bridges statewide.

The other is the refurbishing of State Highway 125/ Neosho River Bridge, which, for the most part, is on schedule.

Public hearings were heard in 2016 regarding the Horse Creek Bridge, which was built in 1936 and now is deemed structurally deficient.

The bridge, which has pedestrian walkways on both sides, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its association with Route 66 and design. Built during the Great Depression, it was a Public Works Administration project.

It’s the only way in or out of town on the east side of Afton.

A group of Afton residents had pushed to save the bridge, but “it’s just not able to handle traffic,” said Kenna Mitchell, Oklahoma Department of Transportation Division 8 public information manager.

“If you get two wide trucks going across it at the same time, you have to hold your breath and hope you make it across.”

The new bridge will have several safety improvements, including wider driving lanes and shoulders.

Traffic will be reduced to one lane with a temporary signal in place through March while utility lines are relocated.

A temporary two-lane bridge will also be built adjacent to the current alignment so a detour will not be needed.

Once traffic is switched to the temporary structure, work can then begin to remove the old bridge and build the new structure.

“We don’t detour the highway traffic to the local roads; we try to keep it on the highway system because that it built to handle higher-volume traffic,” Mitchell said.

The overall project is expected to complete in late 2019, weather permitting.

“I understand they are going to be doing documentation of the bridge before it’s removed. It’s historic, but it’s just not able to handle traffic,” Mitchell said.

TSGT Jason Norton Memorial Bridge

She said the rainy weather hasn’t been too much of a factor with work on the structure, which crosses the Neosho River at George Francis Riverview Park and the Miami Fairgrounds.

“The one thing that could cause the schedule to shift a little bit is once they got the deck up and got a real good look at those beams, there was some additional deterioration that they found,” Mitchell said. “They have the beams and are replacing them, but they will have to order some additional steel and address that problem before the deck goes back on.

“We don’t know yet if that is going to impact the overall schedule or not, but the contractor still is aiming for late spring to have the project complete. We need to get this addressed while we can.”

Traffic is being diverted to State Highway 125, US-60 and US-69 for the duration of the work.