New Tulsa Route 66 master plan likely will include rehabbing 11th Street Bridge

The Tulsa Route 66 Commission is considering an update to its master plan. If it does, rehabbing the historic but long-closed 11th Street Bridge over the Arkansas River will be high on the to-do list.

Tulsa Public Radio reported the master plan last was updated in 2005. Because almost all the projects of the original Vision 2025 plan for Route 66 in Tulsa County are finished, officials are looking ahead to updating it.

Commission Chairman Ed Sharrer talked to the station:

An update would give the commission an opportunity to pencil in new projects. The 11th Street bridge over the Arkansas River is a priority.

“The route came to where there was an existing, concrete-reinforced bridge, not the other way around. So, we owe it to ourselves as a community to protect, enhance, rehabilitate that structure,” Sharrer said.

The bridge is not structurally sound, and restoring it could cost upwards of $20 million. But it is not needed for vehicle traffic and could be developed as a pier or similar pedestrian attraction.

Vision 2025 originally envisioned rehabbing the bridge in 2003. But engineers eventually determined the aged bridge’s condition was so degraded, repairing it would have eaten up all the $15 million earmarked for Route 66 projects in Tulsa County.

Officials instead elected to do make cosmetic improvements on the bridge and close it to all traffic, pedestrians included.

Rehabbing the 11th Street Bridge so it could host dances, food trucks, concerts and other such events would make it an ideal companion for the planned Route 66 Experience complex, which is slated to be built a stone’s throw away near the Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza (best known for its remarkable “East Meets West” statue).

The art deco 11th Street Bridge opened in 1915, predating U.S. 66 by more than a decade. It was closed to vehicles in 1980 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

(Image of the 11th Street Bridge in Tulsa by Shane Burkhardt via Flickr)

2 thoughts on “New Tulsa Route 66 master plan likely will include rehabbing 11th Street Bridge

  1. To call the 11th Street bridge an “art deco” structure is a misnomer. The term was not around in 1915, being coined from the “Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes” held in Paris in 1925, ten years after the bridge was built, and even longer after it was designed. Having taken a life-long interest in bridge designs, I would say that the design came from the materials suited to its construction at the time that it was built, not from some later-named style of art. I find it attractive to look at – simply because I am seeing what I am seeing. I am not thinking “it is art deco so it must be attractive”. That the Paris exhibition’s name included “industriels modernes” gets lost in the “art deco” phrase. And “arts” meant a lot more then than what are now thought of as ‘arts’. Think of the word ‘artisan’, a person skilled at his or her job.

    In the UK the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce soon lost its ‘trade’ connections, to become known just as the Royal Academy of Arts.

    I’m pleased to see that the 11th Street bridge is considered worth retaining. I hope it will not become like another obsolete piece of transportation: Pier 39 in San Francisco.

  2. I’m just curious. Route 66 takes a left turn from 11th to Southwest Boulevard just before the bridge. Was it actually called 11th Street there originally or shouldn’t it be the Southwest Boulevard bridge? I just call it the Route 66.bridge although I learned from reading this that it pre dates Route 66 by 11 years. Just curious.

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