While a lot of talk percolated about it in recent years, the Tulsa Route 66 Commission recently made it official — it wants to reopen the historic but long-closed 11th Street Bridge, at least to pedestrian traffic.
Several reasons exist for the group to become bigger bridge advocates.
Next year, the city is scheduled to finish Avery Plaza Southwest on the west side of the bridge that will feature replicas of the Tulsa Auto Court, Oil Capital Motel, and Will Rogers Motor Court neon signs that graced Route 66.
Second, the Route 66 Experience eventually will begin construction near the east side.
Third, the Cyrus Avery Plaza and its “East Meets West” sculpture sit directly on the span’s east side.
The 11th Street Bridge would serve as the link to all three.
The Tulsa World reported:
“It’s important to save this bridge because this bridge is the reason Route 66 came through Tulsa,” said Amanda DeCort, chairwoman on the Route 66 Commission’s Preservation and Design committee. “And it’s a big part of our history.” […]
“It originally had wide pedestrian walkways and trolley tracks down the middle,” she said. “It would be amazing to return it to that, even if it just had a fun little trolley that scooted back and forth to get people across the river.”
“We could program this (bridge),” she said. “We could have food trucks out there, people could watch the fireworks from the bridge, and it would really be a much more pleasant strolling experience.”
Repairing the bridge won’t be cheap. The city estimates its cost at $21 million.
But it’s good the Tulsa Route 66 Commission finally is making this a high priority. Once Avery Plaza Southwest and the Route 66 Experience get going, perhaps a citywide fundraising effort and grants for the bridge can accumulate enough funds to repair the bridge.
Or George Kaiser or one of Tulsa’s other multimillionaires can write a check in one fell swoop.
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)