Crews discover more damage than expected on heavily-traveled Oklahoma City bridge

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OKLAHOMA CITY - A heavily traveled bridge may be closed longer than expected.

If you use the Belle Isle bridge to get to work in morning, construction is probably adding some extra time to your commute.

This is after Oklahoma Department of Transportation crews found major damage to two of the 80 piers supporting the ramp.

They say the damage occurred from water and salt damage over time.

The bridge is being forced to close lanes and ramps to protect the 100,000 vehicles that travel on it daily.

Crews are busy at work taking a look at the additional 78 piers to make sure they catch any other hidden damage.

"We had enough loose concrete and delamination that we became concerned about the structural integrity of the pier behind us," said Joe Echelle, Division 4 construction engineer.

The Belle Isle bridge is one of the longest bridges in Oklahoma, and was built in 1978.

Since it's highly elevated and sits at an angle, ODOT has always kept a close eye on it.

"There's no question in our engineers' minds that if two of them looked the way they did, on the eastbound side we're inspecting, we'll find more," said Terri Angier, with ODOT.

While safety is a top priority, lane and ramp closures between Pennsylvania and Western Ave. are creating a headache for drivers.

"We would not be able to live with ourselves to make it convenient for them but not safe," said Angier.

The bridge was already undergoing a routine rehabilitation project, but with this discovery of extensive damage, another design project is already in the works for more permanent repairs.

In the meantime, crews are adding steel beam support to add strength to the bridge.

"Using some beams and some H-piles and chains, we have shored up the bridge pier so we'll be able to open the lanes there," said Echelle.

"We have to fix this problem," said Angier.

ODOT says it hopes to open the closed lanes on the bridge by May.

However, the on and off ramps between Pennsylvania and Western Ave. will remain closed until at least June.

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