2017 Year in Review
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation recounts the highlights of 2017 in this Year in Review. From weathering funding cuts to deploying new safety measures, take a look at how the department made an impact in 2017:
ODOT Archeology from ODOT on Vimeo.
Jumper Creek Archaeological Dig Unearths Evidence of Ancient Humans in Oklahoma
As part of the mitigation effort for an upcoming project to address sharp curves and replace a structurally deficient bridge on SH-56, consultants with ODOT performed a major archeological data recovery excavation at the Jumper Creek site in east-central Oklahoma. Investigations in preparation for the upcoming project found that the site stretched to both sides of the highway, meaning any reconstruction project would likely disturb any artifacts buried there.
The solution was a major excavation to locate the artifacts, remove them from the path of the new highway alignment and study them in a museum setting. Researchers first used ground-penetrating radar and other technology to scan the site then carefully dug more than 170 pits with hand tools. Under several feet of earth, researchers found what are believed to be hearths, or stone fireplaces. Charred nut hull fragments were found and analyzed using radiocarbon dating methods, which confirmed that the site was occupied by humans between 2,000 and 3,500 years ago.
The excavation also uncovered spear points, arrowheads and residue from obsidian, a volcanic glass not native to Oklahoma. Some of the obsidian fragments found at the Jumper Creek site have been sourced to either Malad, Idaho, or Obsidian Cliff, Wyo., more than 1,000 miles away.
Recovered artifacts still are being processed and cataloged, and will be curated at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History in Norman. A report on the findings of the excavation also will be prepared and submitted to the State Historic Preservation Office, the State Archaeologist, and the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes.
Former Secretary of Transportation and ODOT Director Gary Ridley facilitates a meeting with U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, ODOT officials and engineers at I-40 near Webbers Falls in 2002.
Gary Ridley Retires, Mike Patterson Appointed Secretary of Transportation
In June, longtime transportation executive Gary Ridley retired as Oklahoma’s secretary of transportation. Ridley was with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for 48 years.
Ridley’s journey up through the ranks provided him with first-hand insights into the whole spectrum of departmental operations. His ODOT service dates back to 1965, when he joined the department as an equipment operator. He moved up to maintenance superintendent at Kingfisher in 1970 and traffic superintendent at Perry in 1979. In 1983 he became field maintenance manager at Perry then advanced to Division Five maintenance engineer at Clinton in 1986. He became division engineer at Division Five in Clinton in 1995. He was named Assistant Director for Operations in January 2001 before becoming ODOT director in August 2001.
During his tenure, the number of bad bridges has been reduced and safety features, such as life-saving cable barriers, have become commonplace on Oklahoma’s highways.
In May 2009 Ridley was appointed Secretary of Transportation by then-Gov. Brad Henry. He was reappointed by Gov. Mary Fallin after her election in November 2010 and held that position until his retirement this year.
Following Ridley’s retirement in June, Gov. Mary Fallin appointed ODOT’s Executive Director Mike Patterson to join her cabinet as secretary oftransportation for the State of Oklahoma. Patterson continues to serve as executive director, as he has since 2013. Prior to that appointment he served as the deputy director for the agency for three years as well as filling the role of chief financial officer since September 1999. Patterson previously served as the comptroller for the agency for 15 years, having begun his career with ODOT as the deputy comptroller in 1980.
Secretary of Transportation Mike Patterson
Centerline Rumble Strips from ODOT on Vimeo.
Life-Saving Devices Debut on Rural Oklahoma Highways
Oklahoma highways offer many safety features, but in 2017 ODOT added a new safety device to its tool kit as part of its ongoing effort to save lives.
The department made a $2.3 million initial investment of federal highway safety funds along rural highways statewide to install center line rumble strips. Their purpose is to alert drivers who have inadvertently crossed the center line. There were 229 fatalities on undivided rural Oklahoma highways due to center line crossover crashes from 2013 to 2015, which are the most recent statistics available.
Center line rumble strips are rectangular milled areas of pavement along highway center lines that generate a physical vibration in the vehicle cabin when tires drive over them. The devices are similar to shoulder rumble strips, which were put into use in Oklahoma in 2001. However, the center line strips vary in depth and spacing from their shoulder counterparts.
The department believes these devices will help to reduce the number of fatalities on two-lane, rural state highways. The longest section of center line rumble strips will help keep motorists on their toes while driving a 180-mile stretch of US-412 in the Oklahoma Panhandle. More than 470 miles of center line rumble strips are now fully installed in southeastern, central and northwestern Oklahoma. Additional areas will be added annually per funding availability.
As shown in this computer-generated rendering, the new US-77 Purcell/Lexington bridge will be a modern four-lane structure with a left turn lane at the intersection at Canadian Ave. in Purcell.
Purcell/Lexington Bridge Project Moves Forward
In September, the Oklahoma Transportation Commission awarded a contract for an up to $38 million project to replace the US-77/SH-39 bridge between Purcell and Lexington. The bridge over the South Canadian River and BNSF railroad was closed for several months in 2014 while ODOT performed emergency repairs to address cracks in the structure. Replacement of the bridge was not scheduled in ODOT’s Eight-Year Construction Work Plan at the time, but a major effort was made to expedite the design and environmental processes to get the bridge under contract in three years.
The bridge’s historic significance was given much consideration during the planning and environmental review process, which included public input and consultation with the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office, the cities of Purcell and Lexington and other preservation groups. The design of the new bridge incorporates aesthetic elements of the historic structure including reuse of some of the original railing on top of the bridge. Educational displays with information on the structure’s history also will be erected at each end of the bridge for the public to view.
Work began in October 2017 and is expected to take about two years to complete. The bridge, which carries more than 10,000 vehicles per day, will remain open during construction.
Read more about the bridge project at https://www.ok.gov/triton/modules/newsroom/newsroom_article.php?id=277&article_id=35479
This map image, generated by ShakeCast, will be what bridge inspectors receive when a large enough magnitude earthquake triggers the need for inspections.
ShakeCast Helps Add Clarity to Bridge Inspections After Earthquakes
As of August 2017, state bridge inspectors now have access to the latest technology to help them provide a faster, more targeted response in ensuring public safety the next time an earthquake rolls across Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation implemented ShakeCast, a program created by the U.S. Geological Survey, to identify specific bridges for immediate inspection by comparing state bridge data with the severity of an earthquake’s ground motions nearly in real-time. Alerts will be issued to crews closest to an earthquake’s epicenter to inspect priority bridges as generated by the software.
A two-year, nearly $650,000 contract with Infrastructure Engineers Inc. of Edmond assisted the department in developing an earthquake response protocol, analyzing bridge data and adding it to the USGS software, training and it will provide four years of system maintenance for the ShakeCast database.
Previously ODOT visually inspected all bridges within 5 miles of any earthquake epicenter between 4.4 to 4.7 magnitude. The inspection radius increased with earthquake magnitudes. Generally, with a 4 to 5 magnitude earthquake no damage has been found on bridges statewide, showing that the state’s bridges have weathered the increased seismicity very well since 2010. Adding ShakeCast to the department’s earthquake inspection toolkit will help ensure that inspectors are deployed as quickly as possible to the potential areas of greatest need if indeed a greater magnitude earthquake does occur in the future.
To read more about ShakeCast, go to: https://www.ok.gov/triton/modules/newsroom/newsroom_article.php?id=277&article_id=34697
Hundreds of ODOT employees participated in the first Health Expo at the agency’s Oklahoma City headquarters.
ODOT Employees Get Healthy, Give Back in 2017
This summer was the first Health Expo at the Oklahoma Department of Transportation headquarters in Oklahoma City. Employees and covered family members - even retirees - got the chance to meet with an array of medical providers all in one place. The event featured more than 20 medical and wellness provider booths, chair massages, door prizes, gift cards and a food truck. Free health screenings were offered to test blood pressure, blood oxygen level, heart rate, height, weight and body mass index, as well as an opportunity to receive a variety of immunizations. All state insurance plans covered immunizations and annual lab and blood work. The event provided a great opportunity to meet providers face-to-face for free. An estimated 400 ODOTers participated in the central office expo.
ODOT also hosted health fairs at the Division Six headquarters in Buffalo and at Division Four’s Perry headquarters. All field divisions eventually will provide a Health Expo event at its local headquarters in spring 2018.
ODOT employees also found other ways to get healthy and give back to the community. This summer, a team of ODOT employees won the Annual Hoop Dreams charity basketball tournament, hosted by CEC Civil Servants, bringing the traveling “Golden Ball” trophy back to ODOT. As the winner of the 2017 tournament, ODOT will select the charity to receive the funds raised in next year’s tournament. In 2015, ODOT won the tournament and selected the Jimmy Everest Cancer Center as the recipient of money raised from the 2016 tournament, which was nearly $2,660.
A team of ODOT runners, “Virginia’s Avengers” also raised money and ran in honor of the wife of an ODOT engineer who recently succumbed to cancer. The team consisted of 13 ODOT employees and friends, and raised a total of more than $5,000, which was generously matched by a more than $2,600 donation from the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors. The funds raised will benefit breast cancer treatment, screening, education and research.
Bridge rehabilitation project on I-244 at 23rd St. in Tulsa
Major Metro Area Projects Bust Congestion, Improve Safety
Completion of I-35/SH-9 East/Lindsey St. interchange project in Norman in summer 2017 was the culmination of decades of work to reconstruct and widen the I-35 corridor between Oklahoma City and Norman. This summer, Normanites celebrated opening of the new $71 million Single Point Urban Interchange at Lindsey St. with a ribbon cutting and community walk across the new bridge, which is now the widest bridge in Oklahoma. Public artwork on the new bridge was dedicated by Gov. Mary Fallin, U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, University of Oklahoma President David Boren and other dignitaries later in the fall.
An $88 million widening and reconstruction of I-235 between N. 36th St. and N. 50th St. in Oklahoma City kicked off in January and work is on schedule. This project will help fight congestion in the key corridor connecting the northern portion of the city to its downtown core. Motorists have seen significant changes in the corridor already with new pavement added, more than half of the significantly up-sized drainage system installed, the removal of the N. 50th St. bridge and the construction of two trusses on site for the new 44-foot tall BNSF railroad bridge over I-235. Up next will be moving the nearly 600-foot-long railroad bridge spans into place early in 2018, which will require two full weekend closures of I-235. Motorists are asked to continue to stay “Off Broadway” and use alternate routes through 2019, when the project is expected to complete.
The $11 million second phase of reconstruction of the I-35/I-240 Crossroads interchange began in summer 2017 and is expected to complete in summer 2018. This phase addresses the southwest corner of the interchange, focusing on eastbound I-240 between Shields Blvd. and I-35 and the eastbound to southbound service road from Shields Blvd. to S.E. 82nd St. and the new, longer and wider ramp from eastbound I-240 to southbound I-35.
In Tulsa, a major resurfacing project on US-75 from the western I-244 split to near the Creek Turnpike/SH-364 junction made a smoother commute for the more than 60,000 vehicles each day. A $4.7 million resurfacing and surface repair project is making significant progress on US-169 as it continues into early summer 2018 from Memorial Dr. to just north of the I-44 interchange.
Additionally, the one-mile section of I-44 in east Tulsa debuted its new look in late fall 2017. A $31 million project at 145th E. Avenue began in February and replaced a functionally obsolete bridge while also expanding the highway lanes in this corridor.
A nearly $20 million bridge rehabilitation project for I-244 at 23rd St. in Tulsa also reached its final stages with the opening of the westbound I-244 off-ramp to 23rd St. in November. This project made critical safety improvements to the two bridges at this location and also allowed for the expansion of the nearby rail yard. Momentum also continues on several bridge rehabilitation projects across Tulsa, including at the northeast and southeast corners of the Inner Dispersal Loop, on I-244 between Harvard Ave. and Memorial Dr. and also at the I-44/I-244 western split.
Billboards displaying the campaign slogan Your Life Matters: Drive Like It were up along highways and interstates across the state for the duration of the campaign in April and May 2017.
Work Zone Safety Campaign Urges Drivers to Remain Alert
In the past five years, 85 people have died in Oklahoma highway work zones and of that number four were Oklahoma Department of Transportation workers. Most work zone fatalities, of both workers and drivers, are caused by speeding, following too closely and distracted driving. That’s why driver safety and behavior was the central focus of the 2017 work zone awareness campaign. A number of channels were used to remind drivers “Your Life Matters: Drive Like It,” including radio and TV PSAs, Facebook and Twitter ads and billboards across the state.
The department partnered with the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and Midstate Traffic Control along with associated partners Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, Fairway Outdoor, Tyler Media and Direct Traffic Control. The campaign garnered more than 10.6 million views for all elements combined and received both national and state awards.
Learn more about the safety campaign at: https://www.ok.gov/odot/WorkZoneAwareness.html
Projects to reconstruct the I-40 interchange at Douglas Blvd. and widen I-40 to the I-240 junction, pictured here, were delayed from Federal Fiscal Year 2020 to 2025 in ODOT’s updated Eight-Year Plan.
Continued Funding Cuts Impact Current and Future Highway Projects
The ongoing state budget crisis and legislation proposed to cut transportation funding led to uncertainty of ODOT’s ability to pay current obligations on ongoing projects in early May and in an unprecedented move, ODOT asked several construction contractors not to start work on 12 projects that previously had been awarded. Additionally, engineers began preparing a plan of how to safely and responsibly suspend work on more than 80 road and bridge projects already under construction in the event that the agency’s cash balance wasn’t able to cover projected expenses. Citing these funding concerns, the Oklahoma Transportation Commission also voted in May to defer the award of new highway construction contracts financed with state dollars that month.
Current construction projects were able to move forward when the final state budget agreement was reached in late May. Nonetheless, the Fiscal Year 2018 budget agreement reduced state funding for highway maintenance and construction by a total of more than $153 million.
In October, the commission approved a trimmed down Eight-Year Construction Work Plan for Federal Fiscal Years 2018-2025. In the updated Eight-year Plan, ODOT was forced to delay projects and even take the unprecedented action of removing projects from the plan due to $840 million in cumulative state funding reductions in the past seven years.
Overall, 40 construction projects totaling more than $204 million were removed from the updated Eight-Year Plan and about 42 percent of all programmed projects are being delayed at least one year. Additionally, several projects have been significantly reduced in scope in order to stretch funding as far as possible. Examples of previously scheduled projects that have been removed from the new plan include work as part of realignment of US-70 around Madill and $32 million replacement of the US-60 bridges over the Neosho and Spring rivers in Ottawa County. In Oklahoma’s urban areas, reconstruction of US-75 along the east leg of the Inner Dispersal Loop in downtown Tulsa and I-40 interchange reconstruction and widening at Douglas Blvd. in Midwest City were delayed two years and five years, respectively.
Read more about impacts to the Eight-Year Plan at https://www.ok.gov/triton/modules/newsroom/newsroom_article.php?id=277&article_id=36480
The more than a century-old Carpenter’s Bluff bridge between Bryan County, Okla. and Grayson County, Texas was recently replaced with a new structure through the County Improvements for Roads and Bridges program.
Oklahoma Sees Largest Reduction of Structurally Deficient Bridges Nationwide
The state received some good news in an August report from the American Road and Transportation Builders Association that showed Oklahoma leading the nation in eliminating structurally deficient bridges. According to federal data cited by ARTBA, Oklahoma has addressed 2,458 structurally deficient highway and local bridges in the last decade with California second at 1,861 bridges. The report coincided with the 10th anniversary of the collapse of the I-35 West bridge in Minneapolis in 2007, which called the nation’s attention to its structurally deficient bridge problem.
“Ten years ago we knew that Oklahoma had some of the worst bridges in the nation,” ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said. “Additional dedicated state funding for transportation since 2006 and the work ethic of this agency have helped us make huge improvements by replacing or rehabilitating thousands of bridges.”
ODOT maintains about 6,800 highway bridges while cities and counties are responsible for 16,000 local bridges.
Read the article from ARTBA at https://www.artba.org/2017/08/01/what-has-happened-with-u-s-bridges-in-the-10-years-since-the-minneapolis-i-35w-bridge-collapse-a-new-analysis-provides-some-answers/