The U.S. Department of Transportation has given Oklahoma a $22 million grant to help rehab and reconstruct the historic Pony Bridge near Bridgeport, which includes keeping its distinctive yellow trusses.
The Oklahoman newspaper in Oklahoma City reports:
“The investment made by the U.S. Department of Transportation to help restore and upgrade Bridgeport Bridge is welcomed news for local traffic as well as freight haulers and Route 66 tourists,” said Congressman Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne. “While ensuring the urgently needed safety improvements are made, the Bridgeport Bridge project will safeguard the historical elements of the bridge — including the iconic pony truss spans and parts of the original Route 66 pavement.”
Last May, Lucas joined U.S. Senators Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa, and James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in support of the project.
“The historic bridge crossing the Canadian River urgently needs repairs,” Lankford said. “I’m grateful for the DOT’s decision to meet our request for assistance with restoring the bridge.”
Brenda Perry, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, said the entire project would cost about $35 million.
The work is scheduled to begin in early 2022.
ODOT stated a year ago the bridge was a good candidate for such a federal grant, and Uncle Sam apparently agreed.
Otherwise, the state probably would have built a new bridge around the span and closed the older bridge to traffic, leaving to further decay to the elements.
The Pony Bridge, aka William H. Murray Bridge, remains one of Route 66’s most iconic spans. Built in 1934, it stretches more than 3,900 feet over the South Canadian River and consists of 38 yellow “pony” trusses, hence its nickname.
The bridge appears in the 1939 Oscar-winning film “The Grapes of Wrath.” In 2016, the bridge appeared on Preservation Oklahoma’s Most Endangered Historic Places list.
Saving the bridge and its key historic elements is a big win for the Mother Road.
(Image of the Pony Bridge by Rhys Martin of Cloudless Lens Photography, courtesy of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership)