In the latest of a series of problems involving Interstate 40 through Oklahoma City, a hole opened in a bridge over the North Canadian River Dec. 29, forcing the closure of two eastbound lanes while crews repaired the damage.
This is a section of the heavily traveled highway that is west of the so-called Crosstown Expressway, a raised section of I-40 that has deteriorated and has become a priority for replacement.
Chunks of roadway in that section have fallen throughout the year, snarling traffic and leading to public concerns about the overall integrity of the Crosstown, which is being realigned in a $500 million project scheduled for completion in 2012.
Originally built in 1965, the expressway carries 120,000 vehicles a day, almost 50,000 more than the intended capacity of 72,000.
Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials have repeatedly assured the public that the roadway is checked frequently and is safe to travel on.
In the recent incident, a one-foot by two and one half-foot hole was reported to ODOT by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol in a bridge over the North Canadian River in far western Oklahoma City, ODOT spokeswoman Mills Gotcher said. Repairs were completed by mid-afternoon and all lanes were open.
Gotcher said holes have opened in the roadway of this bridge before, and the bridge deck was repaired in 2006. The 44-year-old bridge was last inspected in September.
Although this river bridge is not part of the realignment project, it is in an area that is closely monitored, Gotcher said.
“We do feel confident that it’s not a safety hazard, we do constantly check it,” she said.
“It is old, extremely old, it needs to be replaced and we do make it a priority for inspections.”
The interstate is a main east-west artery across the United States and is heavily traveled by tractor-trailer rigs and other traffic.
“This could be normal wear and tear, and with our temperature fluctuations that could cause some issues on the highway,” Gotcher said.
She said ODOT inspectors are on the lookout to prevent roadway problems, such as holes in the road surface, before they happen.
“We would hope we would catch any issues before that became possible,” she said.
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