Indian Country’s Okie Bridges Falling Down?

Steve Russell

The CBS Television Affiliate in Tulsa, KOTV Channel Six, has posted online an Oklahoma Bridge Tracker. The purpose of the tool is to identify bridges that might pose a danger to the public so that people can avoid them when possible and demand that politicians get them fixed when that is possible.

The Webber Falls bridge collapse in 2002 was a traumatic disaster for the Cherokee, Choctaw and Creek Nations because it set a long rescue and then recovery effort in motion right on our borders and involving some of our citizens in the response.

The accident was caused by a collision down in the Arkansas River rather than by a bridge in disrepair but one impact it had was people getting nervous about highway bridges generally.

This nervousness is not irrational when some 10 percent of all bridges in the U.S.—about 60,000, give or take—are in urgent need of repair. Naturally, I could not resist taking a look at the bridges around my former home in the Creek Nation, having played in Sand Creek and the Deep Fork River without any cars falling on me.

The bridges are rated on a scale of 0 (be very afraid) to 100 (relax). My fast and dirty results were faster and dirtier than I anticipated:

— S.H. 66 over Sand Creek, rating 19, structurally deficient.

— S.H. 16 over Sand Creek, rating 54.3, functionally obsolete.

— S.H. 16 over Skull Creek, rating 17.7, structurally deficient.

— S.H. 16 over the Turner Turnpike, rating 64.4, functionally obsolete.

— S.H. 48 over Little Deep Fork Creek, rating 93.4, Non-Deficient.

Having finally found a safe bridge near my hometown, I’ll quit on this high note with the suggestion that you look up your local bridges while there’s no emergency going on and be careful out there.

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