The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is asking for opinions on a future project to rehabilitate the U.S. 281 bridge, aka the Pony Bridge, over the South Canadian River near Bridgeport.
The nearly 4,000-foot-long William H. Murray Bridge, built in 1934, is on the National Register of Historic Places and appeared in a scene of the Oscar-winning “The Grapes of Wrath” film. The Route 66 span consists of 38 “pony” trusses, hence its popular nickname.
ODOT stated in a news release:
The project proposes to improve safety by addressing the existing bridge’s deficient conditions while also preserving the historic integrity of the Route 66 corridor. While the travel lanes are proposed to be widened to accommodate modern truck widths, the department also will take several preservation measures such as retaining the iconic pony truss members on the sides of the structure to maintain the historic feel and appearance of the bridge. The proposed project is still in the development stages and the department is seeking comments relative to the social, economic and environmental effects of this project.
Comments will be accepted now through Oct. 18. The public can visit www.odot.org/US281Bridgeport to view a presentation, 3-D video of the completed project and other materials about the proposal and submit comments. Comments also may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The state last month landed a $22 million grant for the project. The entire cost is estimated at $28 million. The work to widen and strengthen the bridge is scheduled to begin in early 2022 and will last 18 months, though contractors will be given incentives if the work is finished earlier.
It will include closing the bridge and lengthy detours. However, ODOT states the work will add 75 years to the life of the bridge when completed.
Without the grant, the state probably would have built a new bridge around the span and closed the older bridge to traffic, leading to further decay to the elements.
(Screen-capture image from ODOT video of an artist’s rendering of the reconstructed Pony Bridge near Bridgeport, Oklahoma)