The Oklahoma Department of Transportation on Wednesday held a groundbreaking ceremony on a two-year, $35 million project to widen the historic Pony Bridge near Bridgeport but preserve the span’s distinctive pony trusses.
ODOT sent out this tweet from the scene:
Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell & Oklahoma History Center Director Trait Thompson joined Secretary of Transportation Tim Gatz at the US-281/Rt 66 Bridgeport Bridge Wednesday for a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of a nearly 2-year $35 million bridge rehabilitation project. pic.twitter.com/iBkTnKxTDs— Oklahoma Department of Transportation (@OKDOT) November 2, 2022
State officials seek to have the nearly 4,000-foot-long bridge reopened by late 2024, which would be before Route 66’s centennial in 2026.
Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, who also oversees the state’s tourism office, also posted this photo on Instagram:
Pat Smith, director of the Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton, posted these photos from the ceremony. She said the closure enabled her to walk the length of the bridge that day:
Jerry McClanahan, who writes the EZ66 Guide to Route 66 guidebook, recently put out this description of the project and issued a travel advisory on how to detour around it:
Over the next two years it will be rebuilt with a 4-foot wider concrete deck on the original piers, WITH THE 38 ORIGINAL METAL TRUSSES REINSTALLED!
A similar operation was performed on the Captain Creek Bridge, west side of Wellston, OK and it turned out well.
So, while a bit wider, travelers can still experience the gauntlet of yellow trusses on this 3/4 mile long bridge.
Kudos to ODOT and the OK Route 66 Association for working together to keep this historic structure from being entirely demolished.
DETOUR: USE I-40 BETWEEN EXITS 108 AND 101. You may be able to drive the old 66 from Exit 108 to the Bridgeport Hill section, and then up US 281 to Geary-or visa versa (if doing the OPTION). See the maps on OK page-23 and 24.
The Pony Bridge, aka William H. Murray Bridge, remains one of Route 66’s most iconic spans.
Constructed in 1934, it stretches over the South Canadian River and consists of 38 yellow “pony” trusses, hence its better-known nickname.
The Oklahoma Route 66 Association had announced in late October that travelers had about a week to travel over the bridge one more time before it would be closed before construction. I saw a number of photos on social media of Route 66ers taking advantage of that opportunity.