In the face of the country’s current economic crunch, Delaware County Commissioners are finding new and creative ways of cutting costs and still providing the public with safe roads and bridges.

The new bridge the county is currently building on 270 Rd. northeast of Grove is an example of new technology that is helping commissioners save money without sacrificing quality.

“It’s a pre-cast bridge,” explained Commissioner Ken Crowder. “The bridge is being made in Fayetteville and the sections will be brought in on five semis. It’s a way of cutting costs, yet getting a very good structure.”

According to Crowder, the new bridge will bear more than 20 tons of weight in comparison with the old bridge, which was rated at less than six tons and could not even support a school bus.

He said ODOT estimated that replacing the bridge would cost $178,000 if it was done by conventional means.

“I’m going to build this bridge for $60,000-$65,000 total,” Crowder said.

He said the cost of the bridge is around $1,000 per square foot, as compared to conventional bridges, which average about $4,000 per square foot.

In addition to costing less, the pre-cast bridge will be completed far sooner than a conventional bridge.

“It’s very quick,” Crowder said. “With a conventional bridge the road would have to be shut down for a minimum of six months. This way the road will only be shut down for a month and a half.”

The actual placement of the bridge will take about five hours, Crowder said, and crews are planning to set it on July 28th.

County workers were pouring footings for the bridge on Wednesday and Thursday.

“The county is furnishing all the equipment and labor,” Crowder said. “We are building the bridge in house.”

He noted that the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality also approves of pre-cast bridges because they use the natural streambed and do not interfere with the regular flow of the water.

Crowder said the county’s main source of road and bridge funds is a 2.2 cent state fuel tax, which is collected in all 77 counties and then split according to population, rather than according to how many miles of roadway each county must maintain.

He said in recent months the amount of money raised by that tax has dropped as high gas prices have caused people to drive less and conserve fuel.

Crowder recently came under fire because some of the trees the county had to remove to put the new bridge in were on his own property.

“All those trees were on the county right-of-way,” he said. “We did everything legally.”

He explained that property owner Paul Robinson also had to have trees removed to make way for the new bridge.

“He had to sign the same agreement I signed,” Crowder said. “He was very good to work with. He donated some of his right-of-way. This has been a real inconvenience for him.”

 Crowder said the county plans to put in another pre-cast bridge in the southern part sometime this fall.

“It’s a good way to do it,” he said. “It’s economical, and you still get a quality product.”