NATIONAL OPINION: Oklahoma finally gets handle on bad bridges

By Tulsa World

After years of virtually ignoring, then struggling with, a large number of structurally deficient bridges, Oklahoma is finally getting a handle on the problem.
That’s what a Tulsa World analysis of National Bridge Inventory data from 2005 to 2011 showed. The analysis, detailed in a Tuesday story by World Staff Writer Casey Smith, revealed that about 22 percent of the state’s bridges are deemed structurally deficient, an improvement from the 30 percent reported in 2005.
Of the 6,800 highway bridges maintained by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, only 167 do not have funds committed for their repair, and that backlog will be eliminated by 2019, according to ODOT officials. Compare that with 2004, when ODOT had 1,168 structurally deficient bridges in its care.
There are a couple of reasons Oklahoma has been able to make progress with its deficient bridges. One is that state funds available to the state for roads and bridges have increased from $179.7 million in 2005 to an estimated $453.6 million for 2013.
The other major reason for improvement is the Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver Safety (ROADS) fund, created by the Legislature in 2005. The fund has grown from $15 million in 2006 to an estimated $292.4 million in fiscal 2013.
Creation of the ROADS fund marked the first significant infusion of state money into bridge improvement.
It’s popular to say that problems can’t be solved by throwing money at them. The problem of deficient bridges is a very big one that can be – and is being – solved by throwing money at it.
Tulsa World

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