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Emergency declared due to major damage on Belle Isle Bridge, repair timeline

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OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Transportation Commission issued an emergency declaration for the well-traveled Belle Isle Bridge on Monday.

Several piers are crumbling, and others are scheduled to be repaired in the months ahead.

Officials say the area sees around 100,000 cars a day along I-44, between Western and Penn.

ODOT's initial reports of I-44 westbound said that three piers have deteriorated so much that they are in need of an immediate repair.

However, new reports show that an additional three piers on I-44 eastbound are in similar condition.

Casey Shell, ODOT's chief engineer, says the bridge is structurally deficient.

"A bridge that is structurally deficient is one that cannot carry the load that it was originally designed for. That can be through a number of things, but in this case, it was due to the deterioration of the bridge," said Shell.

Right now, the Belle Isle Bridge is reduced to two lanes, with the Northwest Expressway eastbound on-ramp and westbound off-ramps closed until the piers are fixed.

ODOT is expecting major repairs to wrap up in mid-June, but crews keep finding problems.

They say the 35-year-old bridge has been taking major hits for years and they haven't had the funds to fix it.

"What's happened is salt and water has gotten through the joints on the bridge due to lack of maintenance in the past," Shell said.

The lack of maintenance has left the piers of the bridge to crumble.

"That water getting through then soaked onto the concrete on the piers and corroded the steel and caused the concrete to pop away from the piers," Shell said.

Mike Patterson, the executive director of ODOT, says there is no immediate danger to drivers, except for the slow commute.

"Absolutely no danger. We're asking for patience from drivers, it's going to be a huge accommodation issue as we do our repairs, but there's no danger. If there was danger, we would close the bridge, " Patterson said.

ODOT will continue to work on the less damaged areas of the bridge into early next year.

They say the entire project is expected to cost more than $10 million.

Updated Information on 5/22/15- 

Drivers in Oklahoma City can expect to see a flurry of activity under the I-44 Belle Isle bridge the last week of May due to two simultaneous Oklahoma Department of Transportation repair projects, one new and one ongoing, by different contractors working together seamlessly. Early next week, a contractor will begin a major project to repair extensive deterioration on about half of the bridge’s 95 total

A contractor will begin a major project to repair extensive deterioration on about half of the bridge’s 95 total piers.

On Wednesday, May 20, Tulsa-based Sherwood Construction Co. was awarded a contract with a base bid of $13.5 million and up to $2 million in possible financial incentives for early completion of several different phases. All work on both projects is expected to be completed by or before Winter 2015.

Timeline of Belle Isle bridge repairs

  • March 2 - The initial $3 million bridge rehabilitation project by Restek began.
  • April 16 - ODOT closed lanes and ramps after Restek’s work uncovered more extensive deterioration than expected on nearly half of the bridge’s piers.
  • April 24 - Executive Director Mike Patterson issued an emergency declaration and tasked Sherwood Construction to perform a $500,000 interim project to reinforce the most deteriorated piers.
  • May 4 - The Oklahoma Transportation Commission authorized ODOT to solicit bids for an emergency project to repair the extensive deterioration.
  • May 20 - The $13.5 million emergency contract with Sherwood Construction for the major repair project was approved.
  • Late June - The closed lanes of I-44 are expected to reopen.
  • Late summer - The closed ramps are expected to reopen.
  • Winter 2015 - The major repair project on deteriorated piers by Sherwood Construction is expected to be completed.