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)