FAIRLAND – The Twin Bridges over the Neosho and Spring Rivers on US Highway 60 will become one large span bridge to replace the two 75-year-old bridges.
The bridge will be one of the largest and more important ODOT infrastructure projects in the area included in ODOT’s current eight-year-plan.
Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration has the project programmed to start construction in 2024.
The total estimated cost of the project without mitigation costs is expected to be $29.2 to $31 million.
Right of Way and Utility relocation is expected to start in 2018.
An ODOT informational public meeting, part of the preliminary planning stages for the project, drew more than 40 residents and stakeholders to the Fairland School Cafeteria on Thursday, July 13, to hear about the proposed project, express concerns and get questions answered.
Garver Engineering of Tulsa is the development and design engineering team being used for the project.
The project will reconstruct US 60 from approximately 10 miles east of the US 60/US 69 Junction extending east approximately 2.2 miles, including the intersection at State Hwy. 137. The project will replace the existing lanes with two 12 feet wide driving lanes with 8 to 10 feet wide outside shoulders.
ODOT gives the two current bridges condition ratings of a 7/10 for the decking, 5/10 for the superstructure or beams and 5/10 for the substructure or concrete, or an overall grade of “C,” for the old and narrow 77-year-old bridges
Traffic analysis conducted in 2014 indicated volumes at 6,240 vehicles per day on US 60 and 3,040 per day on intersecting Oklahoma State Highway 137 making the need for replacement necessary to service the traffic load and speeds
“The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the need and the preferred alternative for the project,” Garver’s Project Manager Jason Langhammer said.
As the river bridges built in 1940 exist, the Neosho River Bridge spans a length of 605 feet 10 inches, with a 666 feet 2-inch peninsula connecting to the Spring River Bridge, which spans a length of 550 feet 10 inches. The bridges there now are built with a multiple I-beam girder system with a 28 feet roadway width.
A skewed intersection at State Highway 137, overlapping intersections, conflicts with slow and fast moving vehicles are characteristics of the area. ODOT reports 10-year collision data of a total of 36 collisions, with 15 injuries and one fatality mostly concentrated at the curve on Highway 60 to the west and at the intersection.
“When these bridges were constructed the estimated design life was estimated at 50 years,” Jason said. “The life of these bridges has been extended beyond what they were originally designed for.”
Kirsten McCullough with Garver’s Environmental Services explained the potential environmental considerations the project might affect including Twin Bridges State Park, compensatory flood storage, extensive wetlands, threatened and endangered species, GRDA lands and cultural resources.
Potential threatened and endangered species located within the project area include; the American Burying Beetle, Piping Plover, Red Knot, Gray Bat, Northern Long-Eared Bat, Ozark Big-Eared Bat, Neosho Mucket, Winged Mapleleaf, Neosho Madtom, and Ozark Cavefish.
Much of the project area is within the Grand Lake area’s flood pool and may require compensatory flood storage.
“We want to make sure our project does not negatively impact the ability of the lake to accommodate those flood waters,” McCullough said.
In the next phase of the project, further environmental studies will be completed, according to McCullough.
“At this stage, we just looked at these from a desktop level. We are going to be doing more detailed environmental studies of all of these things as we progress with the project,” she said.
The project does not encompass tribal property directly, but tribal interests are within the scope of the project. Twin Bridges State Park and Marina will be affected directly by the project, losing the use of one to two acres for the traffic improvements.
Garver’s engineer Kevin Moore presented information on factors in design considerations including future traffic, building conditions, proposed improvements such as including turn lanes on approaches.
The criteria used for the design proposals incorporated roadway traffic on both US 60 and State Hwy. 137, bridge and retaining walls, and hydraulics for the roadway and bridge using FEMA mapping.
In the development of alternative design proposals, Garver design engineers looked at construction costs, bridge length, and maintenance, retaining walls and maintenance, facility user impact, relocations, park impacts, GRDA lands, flood storage impacts, and wetland and stream impacts.
Garver Design Engineer Matthew Youngblood walked through the process and went over each of the four alternative’s pros and cons and costs.
Four plans were considered ranging from an On-Existing Alignment, Partial South Offset Raised Crossing with Highway 137 Connection at the Peninsula, and a Raised Crossing with Relocated Highway 137 Connection.
The third plan was chosen by ODOT, which will replace the existing bridges with a single longer bridge spanning from the west to east over both rivers and the peninsula in between. US 60 will be raised approximately 25 to 26 feet at the pinnacle at the peninsula to improve the steep grade intersection with Highway 137. The rails on the bridge will be about three and a half feet tall to help prevent accidents.
“We determined that alternative three is the best alternative because it does address both bridges, improves the grade and safety on Highway 137 and of US 60 and it balances costs and minimizes impacts to the properties impacted and the environment,” Youngblood said.
An elevated t-intersection shifted east from the existing intersection is part of the plan and includes turn lanes at the intersection, a safety rail, fill and sloped embankments. This will shift all Marina access to Highway 137, which will pass under the new bridge and reconstructs the curve to the west on Highway 60
The new slab and girder bridge will have 19 spans.
This plan allows for stages of construction and will allow ODOT to maintain two lanes of traffic throughout the anticipated 18 months of construction on the project on US 60 and some closure of Hwy. 137. Duration of closure and detour on Highway 137 is anticipated of six months.
Temporary detour alternative routes of 19 and 24-mile detours have been established when needed.
The Twin Bridges Marina and Park access will be open at all times but may require a detour during construction.
On Oct. 24, 2016, ODOT presented the project to key stakeholders for input and feedback. The stakeholders included agencies with jurisdiction over resources in the project area such as the US Army Corp of Engineers, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wyandotte Nation, Ottawa County Commissioners, Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department, and the Grand River Dam Authority.
During that meeting stakeholders gave feedback of the need to keep US 60 open during construction, asking any closures be coordinated with Twin Bridges State Park and attempt to avoid Spoonbill season and appreciation for any minimization of impacts to wetlands in the area.
Important to the stakeholders was coordination with the Tourism and Recreation Department on any acquisition needed from Twin Bridges State Park. A preferred aesthetic treatment was requested for any retaining walls built.
Questions from those in attendance at last week’s meeting including questions about the detour, Twin Bridges Park overlook, tribal interests, heavy load traffic and lighting in the area.
Miami Police Chief Thomas Hightower who also serves as Miami’s Emergency Director expressed concerns with plans to use Highway 10 and 125 as an alternative detour with the frequent and repetitive flooding occurring there.
ODOT’s Division 8 Field Engineer Randle White said there are detour routes for Highway 10 and the area when flooding occurs.
Wyandotte Nation’s Second Chief Norm Hildebrand expressed concerns over heavy truck traffic during construction and asked if the tribe would be consulted with any archeological considerations affecting the tribe.
He was assured the project’s archaeologist would work closely with the tribe throughout the project.
White said there is no engineering firm selected yet for oversight of the project, this is generally selected at bid letting and ODOT may serve in this capacity. The project may take 15 to 16 months to complete, according to White.
Archaeological and historic surveys, wetland delineations, biological assessment with USFWS consultation and hazardous waste investigation, as well as coordination with the state park will take place, and be summarized and documented.
“This is still preliminary information and will change as we move forward,” McCullough said.
Residents, stakeholders, and others wishing to comment on the project have until July 27, to submit concerns and comments.
Comments may be mailed to ODOT c/o the Environmental Programs Division, 200 NE 21st Street, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105, or by email to Environment@ODOT.ORG or be submitted via the internet at www.odot.orgpublicmeetings.
After this is completed, the proposed plan will be refined using the findings and comments to create a design and environmental document before construction commences in 2024.