Steel Beams Recycled from Oklahoma Bridge Help Rebuild 188 Deficient Crossings

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Updated Jan 14, 2022
Oklahoma bridge beam recycling I-40 Crosstown Expressway
Workers dismantle the Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway, the beams of which were salvaged to help counties in Oklahoma replace deficient bridges.

The recycling of beams from what was once Oklahoma’s longest bridge has helped rebuild 188 county bridges around the state at a significant savings, according to The Oklahoman newspaper.

The beams came from the old Interstate 40 Crosstown Expressway, which was demolished in 2012. At the time, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation saw an opportunity to improve the county bridges in the state, according to a description of the project for AASHTO’s America’s Transportation Awards.

The demolition yielded around 2,060 beams. After being inspected, they were sent to 21 staging areas around the state for local bridge reconstruction, according to the Oklahoma Cooperative Circuit Engineering Districts Board.

The state has made great strides in improving its bridges since it was ranked 49th in 2004 for the number of structurally deficient bridges on its state highway system, ODOT says. In 2020, its bridges rose into the top 10 nationally.

However, 15,500 bridges not included in that ranking are on city streets and county roads and are maintained by local governments. They continue to fall behind. About 14% of those bridges were rated poor in 2020, for a total of 2,225, according to ODOT.

The ODOT has about 900 beams remaining from the 2-mile-long former bridge, according to The Oklahoman. Various county commissioners around the state reported that the beams had saved money in rebuilding structurally deficient bridges, saving in some cases as much as half the cost, the newspaper reported. Some of the bridges had wooden decks. Some had been destroyed by flooding.

At the time of the program’s inception, it was estimated that 300 bridges would be rebuilt at a savings of $15,000 to $20,000 per span, according to OCCEDB. Steel prices, however, have risen dramatically since 2012, likely making the savings from the remaining beams much higher.