A typo in the original story has been corrected.
BRIDGEPORT, Okla. KFOR) — Builders called it the Murray Bridge when it opened in 1934, But Governor “Alfalfa Bill” Murray’s name didn’t stick for long after its completion.
The 38 pony style trusses used to span nearly 4,000 feet of South Canadian River bottom eventually carried the name.
On Saturday morning, as the first line of classic cars lined up for a cruise from El Reno to Weatherford, Route 66 fans like Rhys Martin had always known it as the Pony Bridge.
“It was the 1930’s,” he says. “good roads were increasingly important so, across the Canadian River, they built what is now known as the Bridgeport Pony Bridge.”
Wagons were the first to use this wide, shallow spot on the river.
A railroad bridge arrived in 1891, and a whole series of span followed including a bridge that charged steep tolls.
The Pony Bridge was the best solution for heavier traffic, completed right around the time Dave Jenson’s 1933 Ford V-8 took to the highway.
“That’s right,” he smiles standing next to his newly restored relic.
Clay Fee’s dad bought this ’57 Thunderbird in high school and used it to cross the bridge on his way to college.
“So this is a homecoming for this little car,” he says, parked in front of the El Reno High School. “It sat in this parking lot and certainly in front of this building.”
Jody and Tina Tech didn’t want to miss this cruise with their ’56 Chevy, not just because it was a perfect day, but because Tina practically grew up in the bridge’s long shadow.
“I’ve traveled it for many years,” she says. “It’s part of family history.”
As late as 2015 the Oklahoma Department of Transportation had this bridge slated for demolition.
Historians fought for a compromise because of its place in Dust Bowl history, its part in the movie “The Grapes of Wrath”, and the fact that there’s nothing like it anywhere else.
The Pony Bridge will close with the end of 2021, but not for good.
The bridge is slated for repair now, not replacement.
The longest span on the Mother Road should last a lot longer still.
ODOT is hoping to finish the bridge project in time for the Route 66 Centennial in 2026.