Here is some news from Route 66 in Oklahoma passed along to me by Jim Ross:
“As many of you know, I am somewhat passionate about bridges, and there are two significant spans inthat need our attention.
First, the Pony Bridge on US281 west of El Reno. There has been some chatter lately about ODOT’s plan to possibly replace this bridge. I talked to Melvena Heisch at SHPO about it, and she told me it is too early in the process to take action, but it is definitely on her watch list and she will keep us informed. Additionally, this bridge is part of a NRHP property, so we have some leverage there. The controversial US281 Spur project a number of years ago was intended to relieve traffic on the Pony Bridge and has done so. I haven’t seen traffic counts, but each time I drive that way there is very light traffic on the bridge and virtually no truck traffic, so it seems unlikely that demolition is imminent.
Now the much more urgent matter. The Bird Creek Bridge (formerly known as the Verdigris River Bridge) at near the Blue Whale now has its neck stretched across ODOT’s chopping block. Some of you may have received a letter from them explaining why all the alternatives they supposedly considered won’t work, leaving replacement as the only option. The bridge was built in 1936 and carries westbound traffic. At 24 feet wide, It is 4 feet narrower that its eastbound “twin.” Strangely, ODOT did not use traffic count as justification, though they are pushing the idea of safety. I talked to Melvena about it, and she is not convinced that the bridge cannot continue facilitating traffic. ODOT initially tried to get her to enter the mitigation phase right away, but she refused, and subsequently asked to enter the process as a consulting partner, which they have done. In addition, the National Park Service in Santa Fe has asked to become a consultant. What all this means is that the bridge ain’t dead yet and there is a fair chance we can save it. One crucial factor is that ODOT needs input from the public to help sway their decision-making.
If you can spare a few minutes to contact the individuals below, it could end up making the difference. Each time we do this, we are that much closer to ultimately changing ODOT’s (and other DOTs) thinking about how best to deal with these historic bridges. Thanks for listening, and thanks for your support!