Route 66 landmark Pony Bridge near Bridgeport reopens to traffic

The Route 66 landmark Pony Bridge near Bridgeport, Oklahoma, reopened to traffic Friday after a celebration on the rehabbed span.

Rhys Martin, president of the Oklahoma Route 66 Association, said ODOT counted more than 350 vehicles at one point of the ceremony. He also shot the above image, which shows how crowded it was.

Before opening the bridge, the celebration included music, food, and tours from the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to show the public how the bridge was rebuilt.

Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell, who also leads the state’s tourism division, also attended and gave a few remarks.

Martin posted his own report on the event for the Oklahoma Route 66 Association.

Here is a report and a bunch of photos from the Microsoft Network, via The Oklahoman.

Here are a few photos posted on Facebook from the day:

And here’s a fellow who took video of him driving across the span:

The Pony Bridge, officially the William H. Murray Bridge, was closed to traffic in October 2022 for the $35 million rehabilitation that included widening the narrow span but preserving and reattaching those distinctive trusses.

State officials initially expected a closure of at least two years, but the project was finished ahead of schedule. The bridge now is expected to last for at least 75 more years.

The Pony 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 also appears in the 1939 Oscar-winning film “The Grapes of Wrath.”

UPDATE: In a front-page story today in The Oklahoman (subscription required), ODOT officials were clearly taken by surprise by the number and breadth of visitors during its reconstruction.

Project manager Zac Holt said workers encountered travelers from around the world stopping at the bridge while it was closed for reconstruction.

“I should have gotten a passport for the project,” Holt said. “ I had people from all over the world who stopped — France, Spain, Germany, Italy, England — they were all here to see Route 66 and that bridge.”

(Image from the Pony Bridge reopening event courtesy of Rhys Martin)

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